How Gay Marriage Might Hurt Romney

If same-sex marriage will harm anyone in this election, it’s not President Obama; his position is supported by most Democrats and independents, as well as important portions of his liberal base. By contrast, Mitt Romney is in a serious bind. If he shifts his rhetoric to emphasize opposition to marriage equality, he could energize the conservative base, and deepen his support among evangelicals and other members of the religious right who doubt his commitment to the cause. Already, he’s made steps in that direction. Yesterday afternoon, Romney reiterated his stance on marriage:

“You don’t change your positions to try and win the states or certain subgroups of Americans, you have the positions you have,” Romney told Fox News’s Neil Cavuto on Thursday afternoon. “And as you know, for a long time, I think from the beginning of my political career, I’ve made it very clear that I believe marriage should be a relationship between a man and a woman. “

The problem, of course, is that—in the eyes of the public—continued emphasis could place him on the far right of the Republican Party, move the discussion away from the economy, and damage his moderate persona. The Obama campaign knows this, and American Bridge—the Obama-allied PAC–has released a video to pressure Romney on the subject:

If the attack on Romney’s record at Bain and in Massachusetts is about his competence as an economic manager, then the emphasis on his opposition to same-sex marriage is about his non-threatening appearance. The Obama campaign wants voters—and independents in particular—to see Romney as Rick Santorum in a nicer suit. A full court press on same-sex marriage, combined with Romney’s effort to please his base, might do the trick.