President Obama is set to visit North Carolina today to launch his push for an extension of low interest rates for federally funded student loans. But another issue — one that is just as important to another core Dem constituency as student debt is to young voters — may suck up some of the oxygen.
As Amy Gardner reports, Obama is not expected to touch on the vote set to take place in two weeks on a far reaching amendment to the state constitution that would ban civil unions and domestic partnerships.
Obama has already come out against the amendment, and in fairness, the politics of this battle have grown tricky, since North Carolina is a key swing state in the presidential race. But a public declaration against the measure just before the vote could help immeasurably, advocates say, by helping to educate and boost turnout among voters who may not be focused on just how radical the measure really is.
More broadly, the pressure on Obama to say something about the North Carolina fight illustrates a larger political conundrum for Obama, one has largely been created — paradoxically enough — by Obama’s achievements on gay rights issues. Because of Obama’s good record on gay rights, many advocates are deeply convinced that Obama supports full equality for gay and lesbian Americans. And that overall impresson only increases their impatience with him when he punts on individual issues of importance to the gay community — such as his failure to fully evolve on gay marriage and his decision to drop the executive order barring same-sex discrimination by federal contractors.
Which gives him less room to maneuver at a time when he needs it most.
By the way, some of these issues are coming to a head this summer no matter what. Dems will have to decide whether to include marriage equality in the party platform; and gay groups are set to stage a civil disobedience campaign around the executive order. Both of these will flare up just as Dems will be looking to keep enthusiasm and fundraising strong among gay voters, a core Dem constituency.
* Dems to force vote on Arizona law: Dem messaging chief Chuck Schumer is set to announce today that Dems will hold a Senate vote to invalidate the Arizona immigration law if it’s upheld by the Supreme Court. Though such a measure has no chance of passing, the vote would force Republicans to take a clear stand on it in the middle of a presidential election that could be decided partly by the Latino vote.
By firing up partisans on both sides of the deeply polarizing issue, the vote could also force Mitt Romney — who has said he opposes the lawsuit against the law, but has hedged on whether it’s a model for the nation — to firm up his support for it at exactly the moment when he’s trying to reach out to Latinos.
* Will House GOP support low interest rates on student loans? Today Obama launches his push to extend low interest rates on federally funded student loans, and even Romney has now come out in support of the measure, a clear sign his Grand Pivot is underway.
But Ezra Klein is unable to get House Republicans to say they are willing to support the extension, which means it may not pass. So here’s a question: How forcefully will Romney push House Republicans to get this done, if at all? And if it doesn’t, will Romney’s support for the extension insulate him from any blowback the GOP suffers on the issue?
* Dems try to block Romney’s pivot on higher education: In the wake of Romney’s higher-ed pivot, the Obama-allied Priorities USA Action and American Bridge are out with a new video documenting Romney’s call for cuts in Pell grants and his previous quotes against government help with student debt.
Dems are determined not to let Romney get away with softening his GOP primary positions in the now-raging general election battle for the young voters that are pivotal to Obama’s coalition.
* Why the battle for young and minority voters is so important: Today’s Obama re-elect reality check of the day comes from Charlie Cook, who breaks with conventional wisdom to explain all the reasons Romney is starting out in a better position with swing voters than the primary has led us to believe.
Key takeaway: Obama’s reelection turns heavily on whether he can replicate 2008 turnout numbers among young and minority voters — the political fact that’s driving the student loan fight.
* The next frontier in the war over women: A good question from the New York Times editorial board: Will Romney support the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will soon be voted on in the Senate and would gove people more tools to fight back against gender-based workplace discrimination?
Republicans broadly opposed the last effort by Obama and Dems to pass the measure, and if Romney embraces it now — after he refused to state clearly whether he would have signed the Lily Ledbetter Act — it will signal another pivot in search of another core swing constituency.
* Will GOP oppose reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act? As the Post editorial board notes this morning, the changes Dems are seeking to the Act are by no means radical — yet Republicans appear prepared to oppose the reauthorization at a time when the two parties are caught up in an election year war over which party best represents the interests of women.
* Conservative groups spending huge money to take back Senate: A striking figure: Conservative groups are on track to raise and spend over $100 million on this year’s Senate races alone, and they are already vastly outspending Democrats.
In addition to significantly expanding the role of outside money in politics well beyond 2010 levels, the massive influx also raises a question: Do liberal donors to outside groups have any clue what they’re up against this year?
* Elizabeth Warren is no “elitist,” ctd.: Caitlin Huey-Burns has an on-the-ground look at Warren’s dual challenges: She’s positioning herself as a fighter for the middle class while working to persuade voters the “elitist” label has nothing in common with her actual personality and life story.
The race will turn heavily on whether Warren can clear a “likeability” threshold, which explains the nonstop GOP attacks on her as a “hypocrite” for wanting to raise her own taxes and as an “elitist” for working her way up to a job at a prestigious university.
* And media lets Mitt get away with playing a moderate: A good read from Steve Kornacki on a factor that could prove decisive in the presidential race: The political media’s willingness to grant Romney the presumption that he’s really a moderate, despite all the positions he’s taken on actual issues and so forth.
You see, Romney didn’t really believe all that silly stuff he said to get through the primary — all that was just part of the game.