Voters are a lot smarter than the president and his political flacks figure. The latest New York Times and CBS News poll finds the public skeptical over the reason for President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage:
Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed by The New York Times and CBS News since the announcement said they thought that Mr. Obama had made it “mostly for political reasons,” while 24 percent said it was “mostly because he thinks it is right.” Independents were more likely to attribute it to politics, with nearly half of Democrats agreeing.
The results reinforce the concerns of White House aides and Democratic strategists who worried that the sequence of events leading up to the announcement last week made it look calculated rather than principled.
Buried waaay down in the report is the bitter news for the liberal readership of the Times: Obama trails Mitt Romney by 3 points.
The poll also found that “38 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, while 24 percent favor civil unions short of formal marriage. Thirty-three percent oppose any form of legal recognition. When civil unions are eliminated as an option, opposition to same-sex marriage rises to 51 percent, compared with 42 percent support.” Not surprisingly, not many people rate gay marriage as a top issue (“62 percent naming [jobs and the economy] their top priority and 19 percent their second highest. By contrast, just 7 percent chose same-sex marriage as the most important issue and 4 percent as the second-most important”). No wonder the Obama camp dropped the issue this week and went on to other issues (mostly attacking Romney on Bain, so far).
This all must come as a shock to the Upper West Side. (But he killed Osama bin Laden! And Romney is so rich !) It is early yet, and as I’ve warned many times, the top-line horse-race number is fairly meaningless at this point. But at least at this stage in the game the negative onslaught and the gay marriage issue have done no perceptible damage to Romney. It doesn’t mean over time the president’s attacks can’t muddy up Romney.
But the electorate’s sophistication, or maybe its cynicism, is to Romney’s benefit. Essentially the public sees the Obama gimmicks and distractions, knows they are gimmicks and distractions, yawns and goes back to worrying about the economy. Obama, like any flim-flam artist, succeeds only if his audience is gullible. That worked fine in 2008 when the voters were willing to be wooed and were excited to be part of a historic election. Now they are, perhaps, less willing to be charmed and more attuned to political gambits. Romney better hope so. His success rests on voters’ willingness to put aside irrelevancies and political ploys. So far, it’s looking fairly good for him.