Obama unveils ‘My Brother’s Keeper,’ opens up about his dad, drugs and race

Obama unveils ‘My Brother’s Keeper,’ opens up about his dad, drugs and race

Posted by

(CNN) – The President has a message for young minority men who grew up like he did.

“No excuses. Government, and private sector, and philanthropy, and all the faith communities, we all have a responsibility to help provide you the tools you need. We’ve got to help you knock down some of the barriers that you experience,” he said.

Follow @politicalticker

“But you’ve got responsibilities too. And I know you can meet the challenge, many of you already are, if you make the effort.”

President Barack Obama spoke Thursday at the White House, where he announced “My Brother’s Keeper” – a new initiative to help young men and boys of color succeed.

He described the program as one that “goes to the very heart of why I ran for President” and dove into his own life to explain why such an initiative is needed, speaking candidly about his father, drugs and race.

A White House official said Obama improvised a good portion of his remarks and was more emotional than many planners of the event had anticipated.

Read the initiative

Mimi Walters Responds to the State of the Union Address by President Obama

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 28, 2014
Contact: Dave Gilliard
(916) 626-6804

“It is clear to me that this President fails to understand that the greatness of America does not come from the federal government or any other institution of government; it comes from the people and the freedoms we enjoy to take risks, innovate, grow and succeed on our own.

“By asserting that he will impose many of his policies without the consent of Congress, it is also apparent that President Obama does not believe in our nation’s system of checks and balances that protects us from any single branch becoming too powerful, a system that has served us well for over two centuries and that is the model for the world.”

“As a member of the next Congress, I will be willing to work with the President to find solutions to our nation’s problems. I will not ever agree to stand silently by while this or any President attempts to use his powers to bypass Congress or the people.”

 

Polls: Cell phone users prefer Obama, landline users like Romney

By Holly Bailey

ters have been under pressure to make sure their samples include Americans who rely solely on cell phones—and the latest NBC News/Marist polls ofFlorida,Ohio andVirginia exhibit why.

As NBC’s First Read flags, Romney narrowly pulls ahead inFlorida among voters who were polled over landlines—48 percent to 45 percent. But among cell phone respondents only, Obama has a major lead: 57 percent to 34 percent.

InVirginia, the results are similar: Romney leads by 1 point among voters polled over landlines: 47 percent to 46 percent. Meanwhile, Obama has the advantage with cell phone respondents: 54 percent to 36 percent.

InOhio, Obama does better among both landline respondents–44 percent to Romney’s 41 percent–and cell phone users–47 percent to Romney’s 37 percent.

According to the poll, 28 percent of its respondents inOhioandFloridawere cell phone users, compared to 27 percent inVirginia.

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/polls-cell-phone-users-prefer-obama-landline-users-153934903.html

Mitt Romney says he’s ‘haunted’ by past verbal gaffes

 

Romney on his campaign plane (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney admits he’s “haunted” by the verbal gaffes he’s made during his second run for president but says he’s the victim of a media environment that encourages “spontaneous” actions, yet pounces on mistakes.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan, Romney acknowledges that he’s forced himself to “be a little more careful in what I say” after mistakes that “make me want to kick myself in the pants.”

Among his gaffes, Romney cites his comment at a New Hampshire luncheon in January when he said, “I’d like to be able to fire people.” He said he meant health care companies that provide inadequate services, but the remark has been used against him in Democratic attacks ever since without that kind of context.

In the current media environment, Romney says, “you will be taken out of context, you’ll be clipped, and you’ll be battered with things you said.”

“I have to think not only about what I say in a full sentence but what I say in a phrase,” Romney tells Noonan. “The media always says, ‘Gosh, we just want you to be spontaneous,’ but at the same time if you say anything in the wrong order, you’re gonna be sorry!”

The presumptive Republican nominee insists he’s enjoying his time on the campaign trail, but concedes he has off days. Asked if he wakes up in a “good mood,” Romney admits that doesn’t always happen.

“The only time I’m unhappy is if I’ve done something that hurt the prospects for the success of our effort,” Romney says, though he adds he doesn’t remember the last time he woke up unhappy. “Sometimes you’re disappointed, but it’s mostly disappointment with myself that causes me to be most concerned. This for me is not my life, meaning I don’t have to win an election to feel good about myself.”

Asked if he loves the game of politics, Romney says he likes the “competition.”

“I think the game is like a sport for old guys. I mean, you know, I can’t compete in competitive sports very well, but I can compete in politics, and there’s the—what was the old ABC ‘Wide World of Sports’ slogan? ‘The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,’” Romney says. “The only difference is victory is still a thrill, but I don’t feel agony in loss.”

The presumptive Republican nominee tells Noonan that he’s keeping a personal diary of his 2012 bid on his iPad, which he updates every two or three days so that years from now he can “remember what it was like … the feelings, the ups, the downs, the people I meet and the sense I have about what’s going to happen.”

“It’s kind of fun to go back and read, as Ann and I do from time to time,” Romney says.

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/mitt-romney-admits-haunted-past-verbal-gaffes-140602262.html

Obama’s high school pot-smoking detailed in Maraniss book

By Olivier Knox

Bill Clinton he was not. When it came to smoking pot, the teenage Barack Obama had rules. You had to embrace “total absorption” or face a penalty. When you smoked in the car, “the windows had to be rolled up.” And he could horn his way in, calling out “Intercepted!” and grab the joint out of turn.

Best-selling author David Maraniss’ “Barack Obama: The Story” describes the future president’s teenage antics, notably his copious marijuana smoking, details of which were published early Friday by Buzzfeed. While the book won’t be released until June 19, vast sections of it were already available Friday on Google Books.

[Related: Obama ex-girlfriend recalls his 'sexual warmth']

Starting on page 293, the reader begins to get the dope on high school-age Obama’s group of basketball- and fun-loving buds, who dubbed themselves the “Choom Gang,” from a verb meaning “to smoke marijuana.”

“As a member of the Choom Gang, Barry Obama was known for starting a few pot-smoking  trends. The first was called ‘TA,’ short for ‘total absorption.’ To place this in the physical and political context of another young man who would grow up to be president, TA was the antithesis of Bill Clinton’s claim that as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford he smoked dope but never inhaled,” writes Maraniss, author of a biography of the 42nd president.

“When you were with Barry and his pals, if you exhaled precious pakalolo (Hawaiian slang from marijuana, meaning “numbing tobacco”) instead of absorbing it fully into your lungs, you were assessed a penalty and your turn was skipped the next time the joint came around. “‘Wasting good bud smoke was not tolerated,’ explained one member of the Choom Gang, Tom Topolinski, the Chinese-looking kid with a Polish name who answered to Topo.”

[Related: Aides gave filmmakers bin Laden raid info]

Obama also made popular a pot-smoking practice that the future president and his pals called “roof hits.” When they smoked in the car, they rolled up the windows, and “when the pot was gone, they tilted their heads back and sucked in the last bit of smoke from the ceiling,” Maraniss writes.

Obama “also had a knack for interceptions. When a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted ‘Intercepted’ and took an extra hit. No one seemed to mind,” according to the text.

Maraniss details how the Choom Gang relaxed at a spot they called “Pumping Stations” partway up Mount Tantalus on Oahu.

“They parked single file on the grassy edge, turned up their stereos playing Aerosmith, Blue Öyster Cult, and Stevie Wonder, lit up some ‘sweet-sticky Hawaiian buds,’ and washed it down with ‘green bottled beer’ (the Choom Gang preferred Heineken, Beck’s, and St. Pauli Girl),” according to Maraniss.

“No shouting, no violence, no fights; they even cleaned up their beer bottles. This was their haven, in the darkness high above the city and the pressures of Punahou,” he writes.

They also operated by consensus (NATO-style!), with any member able to “veto” a suggestion. “Whenever an idea was broached, someone could hold up his hand in the V sign (a backward peace sign of that era) and indicate that the motion was not approved. They later shortened the process so that you could just shout ‘V’ to get the point across,” says Maraniss.

Sure, they drove around in a VW bus nicknamed the “Choomwagon.” And their dealer was a “freakin’ scary” guy named Ray who met a grisly end. “Many years later they learned that he had been killed with a ball-peen hammer by a scorned gay lover.” (On his yearbook page, Obama says “Thanks Tut, Gramps, Choom Gang, and Ray for all the good times.”)

But Maraniss also suggests that Obama, like, oh, everyone in the world, embellished his mischief.

“Later in life, looking back on those days, Obama made it sound as though he were hanging out with a group of misbegotten ne’er-do-wells, what he called the ‘club of disaffection.’ In fact, most members of the Choom Gang were decent students and athletes who went on to successful and productive lives as lawyers, writers, and businessmen,” the author says.

Obama was a solid student, and adept at what some readers might know as “osmotic learning.”

“He seemed nonchalant, yet performed well. How did he do it? He told his Choom Gang mates that the trick was if you put the textbook under your pillow the night before you would perform better on an exam. ‘It never worked for me,’ said Topolinski.”

Obama: Fighting Romney on economy ‘is what this campaign is going to be about’

By Olivier Knox 

In the spotlight of the world stage, President Barack Obama on Monday unapologetically defended his campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at the private equity firm Bain Capital and vowed to keep up the onslaught all the way to November.

“This issue is not a distraction,” Obama defiantly declared at a press conference wrapping up a NATO summit in his hometown of Chicago. “This is what this campaign is going to be about.”

“If your main argument for how to grow the economy is ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you’re missing what this job is about,” the president said, evidently relishing the opportunity to knock Romney.

“It doesn’t mean you weren’t good at private equity, but that’s not what my job is as president. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. My job is to make sure that the country is growing not just now, but ten years from now and 20 years from now,” he said.

Obama’s campaign has drawn fire, including from Democrats, for ads focused on the fate of GST, a Kansas City steel mill Bain bought in 1993 and put into bankruptcy in 2001. Romney left Bain in 1999, but maintained an interest in the firm.

In January, the Reuters news agency published a long analysis of Romney and Bain’s record with GST, along with his record in private equity overall. (Of note: The plant’s owners approached Bain Capital “because it had earned a sterling reputation for turning companies around.”)

The Romney campaign has hit back by portraying Obama’s criticisms of Bain as an attack on capitalism, and wasted no time in turning Democratic Newark Mayor Corey Booker’s description of the attacks as “nauseating” into an ad.

“President Obama confirmed today that he will continue his attacks on the free enterprise system,” Romney said in a statement after the embattled incumbent’s remarks.”What this election is about is the 23 million Americans who are still struggling to find work and the millions who have lost their homes and have fallen into poverty,” Romney said. “President Obama refuses to accept moral responsibility for his failed policies. My campaign is offering a positive agenda to help America get back to work.”

[Related slideshow: Protesters swarm final day of NATO summit]

Obama had been asked about the ads, Booker’s criticism, and for his views on private equity as a whole.

The president praised Booker as “an outstanding mayor” who is “doing great work” and “helping to turn that city around.”And then he gave a lengthy, combative reply in which he repeatedly targeted Romney’s signature argument to voters on the economy, Obama’s greatest political vulnerability.

“My view of private equity is that it is set up to maximize profits,” he said. “And that’s a healthy part of the free market. But that’s not always going to be good for communities or business or workers.”

“The reason this is relevant to the campaign is because my opponent, Governor Romney, his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience,” Obama said. “He’s not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts, he’s saying ‘I’m a business guy, I know how to fix it,’ and this is his business.”

“And when you’re president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits,” he said. “Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot.”

“Mister Romney is responsible for the proposals he’s putting forward for how he says he’s going to fix the economy,” Obama said. “And if the main basis for him suggesting he can do a better job is his track record as the head of a private equity firm then both the upsides and the downsides are worth examining.”

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/obama-fighting-romney-economy-campaign-going-223505554.html

Biden campaigns in Ohio, hits ‘Romney Economics’

By Olivier Knox |

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/biden-campaigns-ohio-hits-romney-economics-134012937.html

Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday launches a two-day campaign swing through the critical battleground state of Ohio. He will unleash a blistering attack on “Romney Economics,” charging that the presumptive Republican nominee’s business background shows he would favor wealthy investors over working-class Americans if he wins the White House.

“Nobody knows better than the people of the Valley the consequences of that kind of philosophy,” Biden planned to say in a noontime speech at an advanced automotive manufacturing facility in Youngstown. “You’ve been through hell and back.”

The blunt-speaking vice president’s remarks, excerpts of which were made public by the Obama campaign, focused on Romney’s time as head of the Bain Capital private equity firm. They echo an Obama campaign ad released earlier this week focused on a steel plant that went bankrupt eight years after Bain bought it in an attempt to turn the struggling business around.

“He thinks that because he spent his career as a ‘businessman,’ he has the experience to run the economy,” Biden planned to say . “He’s raised it.  So let’s take a real hard look at it.”

The vice president highlighted the story of GST Steel, which was already struggling by the time Bain Capital bought in in 1993. The plant went bankrupt in 2001, 750 workers lost their jobs. Romney had left Bain in 1999, but retained a financial stake in that company.

“Romney made sure the guys on top got to play by a separate set of rules, he ran massive debts, and the middle class lost. And folks, he thinks this experience will help our economy?” Biden was to say. “Where I come from, past is prologue. So what do you think he’ll do as President?”

(In January, the Reuters news agency published a long analysis of Romney and Bain’s record with GST, along with his record in private equity overall. Of note: The plant’s owners approached Bain Capital “because it had earned a sterling reputation for turning companies around.”)

“We welcome the Vice President’s attempt to pivot back to jobs and discuss the Obama Administration’s record of exploding deficits and high unemployment,” said Romney campaign spokeswoman Sarah Pompei. “With 23 million Americans struggling to find jobs, voters understand that it’s time to elect a successful businessman like Mitt Romney who can put people back to work and address the serious economic challenges facing our country.”

Biden’s campaign swing highlights what sort of political weapon he could be for the Obama reelection effort–harnessing his effusive, folksy charm to win over traditional working-class Democrats who didn’t really swoon for the president in 2008 and resist his appeals for help in 2012.

“Folks,” Biden was to say (they’re really leaving nothing to chance over at Obama HQ — even the “folks” is in the script). “This election is going to create a stark and fundamental choice between two different economic philosophies.””There’s Obama Economics, which values the role of workers in the success of a business, and values the middle class in the success of the economy.  A philosophy that believes everyone deserves a fair shot and a fair shake, and everybody should play by the same rules,” Biden said in the excerpts.

“And then there’s Romney Economics, which says as long as the government helps the guys at the very top do well, workers and small businesses and communities can be left to fend for themselves,” the vice president said.

“But folks, as you’ve begun to see in the Valley, things really are starting to come back. There are signs of hope in the heartland. Jobs are starting to come back,” Biden said.

Romney’s high school bullying is the draft-dodging scandal of 2012. Let’s drop it.

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney delivers the commencement address at the Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va, Saturday, May 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Jae C. Hong – Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney delivers the commencement address at the Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va, Saturday, May 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. 

A presidential candidate’s high-school years have always been packaged as a sepia-toned time of paper routes, patriotism, and premature whiffs of greatness. The classic model is the brief torch-is-passed film clip unveiled at the 1992 Democratic Convention of a 16-year-old Bill Clinton shaking hands with John Kennedy at the White House during a Boys State trip to Washington.

The sometimes-brutal realities of high school have always been far from these gauzy small-town clichés. In truth, you have to be made out of hardier stuff to be a winner in high school rather than a victim. 

Mitt Romney, the son of the governor of Michigan, was that kind of winner in the mid-1960s as a boarding student at the elite Cranbrook School outside of Detroit. But as the Washington Post’s Jason Horowitz makes clear in a recent well-reported portrait of Romney at Cranbrook, this high-school popularity was partly earned through pranks — like the forcible cutting of a closeted gay student’s hair — that had a cruel and sometimes homophobic tinge.

Romney, while insisting that he did not recall the hair-cutting incident, offered a blanket apology for his Cranbrook conductduring a Fox News radio interview. “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school,” Romney admitted, “and some might have gone too far.”  

Romney’s prep-school years will be rich fodder for future biographers trying to decipher whether he felt like an outsider as a Mormon or as the ultimate insider because of his father’s political success and wealth. But is it possible in the heat of a presidential campaign to draw the right lessons from a candidate’s teen-age years? The temptation to practice psychiatry without a license can be irresistible when the goal is to score political points rather than reveal larger truths. 

So as tempting as it may be to find cosmic meaning in Romney’s prep-school years, I prefer to employ the evidence from his adult career at Bain Capital, as Massachusetts’s governor and during his six-year quest for the presidency. 

I have long believed that there should be a statute of limitations to protect presidential candidates from ancient controversies. For nearly two decades, baby-boomer politicians faced what-did-you-do-in-the-war dustups over Vietnam–from Dan Quayle wangling his way into the Indiana National Guard to George W. Bush’s spotty attendance record as a National Guard pilot. War records are off the table this cycle: 2012 will be the first presidential race since 1944 in which neither major-party candidate served in uniform. 

So in its place, we have what? High school and college memories.

David Maraniss’ forthcoming biography, “Barack Obama: The Story,” may well become the most influential book of this campaign year. But the excerpt published in this month’s Vanity Fair, revealing the identities of two college-era girlfriends, merely confirms common pre-existing interpretations of Obama. Young Obama comes across as an earnest, emotionally detached searcher eager to find his place in the world despite his lack of a stable family, financial security and–most important–a clearly identified racial and cultural tradition. With eerie prescience, Genevieve Cook wrote in her journal in early 1984 about Obama, “How is he so old already, at age 22 … Distance, distance, distance, and wariness.” 

Of course, the Romney incidents have an ugly under-current certainly lacking in this portion of the Obama saga. But maybe because I am exactly Romney’s age, I also realize that high school is not necessarily a valid predictor of adulthood. Nothing is pre-ordained in life. Think of Franklin Roosevelt transformed by the ordeal of polio. Think of how the lightweight playboy senator changed into President Kennedy, especially after the wrenching ordeal of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Or, consider the difference in George W. Bush after he stopped drinking.  

Romney of Cranbrook undeniably lacked empathy for some of his classmates. But, in a political context, that same point can be made without having to drudge up dusty yearbooks. To understand Romney’s worldview all you need to do is to listen to his vigorous defense of the job losses that stemmed from his decisions at Bain Capital and to chart his frequent flippant references to firing people. It is no secret that Romney believes that unfettered capitalism creates losers as well as winners–and that some of the losers deserve their fate. This is the adult Romney, not the teen-ager at Cranbrook who looked down on day students without a pedigreed background or prominent father. 

Journalists Joe Klein and Jim Fallows, both friends of mine, make the case that the most troubling aspect of the hair-cut hazing is Romney’s claim of amnesia. As Klein writes for Time, “This transparent fudge once again raises questions about his character … I’m still waiting for the moment when Romney tells the truth about something difficult.”

I remain skeptical of these variants on the familiar “it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up” formulation. Without getting too deep into forever-Jung psychoanalysis, I do think that it is conceivable that Romney may have repressed (deliberately or unconsciously) memories of these disturbing moments at Cranbrook. If we want to tote up the moments when Romney told a whopper as an adult, I personally rather would start with his dubious claim that he abandoned his public support of abortion rights because of a revelation that came over him while reading stem-cell memos as Massachusetts governor. Obama’s evolutionary development on gay marriage (akin to Darwin waiting for the latest polling results) also stretched credulity until his dramatic conversion last week

As Robert Caro so powerfully demonstrates with his latest Lyndon Johnson volume, part of the biographer’s art lies in digging deeply and patiently looking for clues that link events across decades. That kind of panoramic depth cannot be achieved by a single profile or a single incident (no matter how thoroughly reported) dredged up like a time capsule. 

Maybe Paul Simon got it right when they sang a few years after Mitt Romney graduated from Cranbrook: “When I think back on all the crap I’ve learned in high school/It’s a wonder I can think at all.”

http://news.yahoo.com/for-romney–and-obama–is-it-time-for-a-statute-of-limitation-on-controversies-.html

Obama campaign adds ‘clean coal’ to website after Republican outcry

By Chris Moody 

nt Obama’s campaign website added “clean coal” to a list of energy priorities late this week, days after Republican lawmakers noted the omission and a federal inmate received about 40 percent of the vote against Obama in the Democratic primary in coal-heavy West Virginia.

Previously, the campaign’s website highlighted “fuel efficiency” on a list of seven energy priorities, but it has been replaced by “clean coal” and the site now touts Obama’s “10-year goal to develop and deploy cost-effective clean coal technology.”

While the addition to the website is new, Obama’s support for clean coal is not. The president officially supported investing in clean coal technology even before he was elected president, but the fossil fuel was not listed on this particular webpage until this week.

In response to inquiries about the new language, Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith noted that the president “has supported clean coal technologies” and that “employment in the mining industry is at a 15 year high,” but she did not address why clean coal was recently added to the site.

The administration has come under fire from Republicans recently who allege that Obama has not shown enough support for coal, one of the nation’s primary sources of energy. Under Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed regulations that include higher emission restrictions on coal plants.

 

Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy Power, criticized the Obama campaign earlier this week for not including coal in its “All of the Above” strategy on the website, calling the omission “glaring,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Upon seeing the new Obama webpage Friday, Whitfield said he was still “skeptical.”

“Well, at least the president is finally acknowledging our most abundant energy resource, coal,” he said. “However, I’m skeptical he will actually do anything to draw on this resource.”

Obama supports gay marriage: How will it affect his re-election campaign?

By Olivier Knox

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/obama-supports-gay-marriage-affect-election-campaign-185836746.html

President Barack Obama’s history-making embrace of gay marriage could send far-reaching political aftershocks through a presidential campaign defined by voter concerns about the economy but likely decided by slivers of the electorate in a handful of battleground states.

“The politics, it’s not clear how they cut in some places that are going to be pretty important in this electoral map. It may hurt me,” Obama told Robin Roberts of ABC News in an exclusive interviewWednesday as he announced his change of heart. “I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney said as he campaigned in Oklahoma.

A Democratic senator who supports Obama’s re-election as well as gay marriage told Yahoo News that the president could face “significant electoral risk” if his announcement is merely a check-the-box exercise with no follow-through.

“If the president simply makes an important commitment to equality and moves on, and does not challenge the network of people nationally, activists and others, who favor marriage equality, to speak up from now through the election, he is taking a significant electoral risk,” said the senator, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified by name.

“When you move from ‘civil union’ to the word ‘marriage,’ it reaches people differently,” the senator said in a telephone interview, warning that highly motivated foes of gay marriage will unleash a campaign of “public speeches, sermons, newsletters, websites, that will darkly suggest a negative future.”

Obama echoed that sentiment, telling ABC News: “I had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient, that that was something that would give people hospital visitation rights and other elements that we take for granted, and I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, you know, the word ‘marriage’ was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs, and so forth.”

Richard Socarides, a leading gay activist who served as President Bill Clinton’s top adviser on issues like same-sex marriage, said Obama “can help build a national consensus.”

“Nobody expects the president to make this a central feature of his presidency, but it is an important issue,” Socarides told Yahoo News by telephone.

Other Obama supporters pointed to a Gallup national poll, released Tuesday, showing that the country has been “evolving” on the issue along with the president.

The public opposed gay marriage by a lopsided margin of 68 percent to 27 percent when Gallup first asked the question in 1996. In 2012, for just the second year, a narrow majority of 50 percent favored making it legal, with 48 percent against. (The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.) Independent voters were strongly in favor, 57 percent to 40 percent, which on the surface would seem to help the embattled incumbent.

In what both sides expect to be a hotly contested election, the outcome could turn on relatively few voters in up-for-grabs states—like North Carolina, which voted 61 percent to 39 percent Tuesday to adopt a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions. Obama beat John McCain there by just 13,692 ballots in 2008, and he leads Mitt Romney by 2.4 percentage points according to a Real Clear Politics average of polls.

“It was important for me, given how much attention this issue was getting—both here in Washington but elsewhere—for me to go ahead, let’s be clear, here’s what I believe,” Obama told ABC News.

“But I’m not going to be spending most of my time talking about this, because frankly my job as president right now, my biggest priority, is to make sure that we’re growing the economy, that we’re putting people back to work, that we’re managing the draw-down in Afghanistan effectively,” he said. “Those are the things that I’m going to focus on.”

One in 6 of the Obama campaign’s “bundlers”—who corral big money donors—is gay, according to the Washington Post.

There is little evidence to support the oft-repeated claim that coming out in favor of gay marriage will cost Obama much support among black voters.

But political analysts also point to working-class, white, religious voters in pivotal states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, and conservative-leaning independents in other important states like Iowa and Nevada as potentially put off by Obama’s new position.

 

[Related: Join the debate about gay marriage]

“African-American voters, who tend to be less sympathetic to gay marriage than white voters, are very enthused about Obama and, I think, this won’t change that,” said Ohio State University political science professor Paul Allen Beck .

“But the question in places like Ohio will be how this affects blue-collar white voters who might otherwise be predisposed to vote Democratic. For some of them, particularly the ones who are more deeply religious, this could be important,” Beck told Yahoo News.

“For almost all Americans, this won’t be directly a factor in November. But elections are won and lost at the margins, especially in Ohio,” Beck said.

Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey’s re-election fight highlights the difficult balancing act for politicians in swing states. Casey opposes gay marriage but favors allowing civil unions. His Republican opponent, Tom Smith, would favor a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, but would not support a ban on civil unions, Smith’s campaign manager Jim Conroy told Yahoo News by telephone.

But the Obama campaign may have calculated that the president’s waffling—it could no longer be dubbed “Clintonian” after Bill Clinton actively campaigned against the North Carolina amendment—would tarnish his “hope and change” brand and dampen enthusiasm among liberal Democrats, young voters and single women, all key parts of his winning coalition in 2008.

“They ripped off the Band-Aid, didn’t they?” a Democratic congressional aide told Yahoo News, saying that Vice President Joe Biden’s endorsement of same-sex marriage on “Meet The Press” Sunday had forced the White House to confront “head-on” an issue it had hoped not to take up.

Speaking to reporters after a campaign event in Oklahoma City, Romney said his position on same sex marriage was unchanged.

“I have the same view on marriage that I had when I was governor. I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” Romney said. “I have the same view I’ve had since, well, running for office.”

Conservative activist Ralph Reed, now head of the Faith And Freedom Coalition, predicted that Obama’s decision would fire up conservative voters.

“This is an unanticipated gift to the Romney campaign. It is certain to fuel a record turnout of voters of faith to the polls this November,” he said in a statement on the group’s Facebook page.

And Brad Dayspring, a shrewd former aide to House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor now advising a conservative super PAC, accused Obama of trying to use a “culture war” to distract voters from the sour economy.

“Once again the President refuses to put economy and jobs first. All of our focus should start there,”Dayspring said on Twitter.

In 1996, Obama said on a campaign questionnaire in Illinois, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer later disavowed that statement, saying “someone else, not the president” had filled it out.

As president, Obama signed a law repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on openly gay servicemembers, and ordered his administration to stop defending in court the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions.

“My feelings about this are constantly evolving,” Obama told reporters at a press conference one month after Republicans romped in the November 2010 midterm elections.

“I struggle with this. I have friends, I have people who work for me, who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about,” Obama said.

He went on to say: “At this point, what I’ve said is, is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. And I think—and I think that’s the right thing to do. But I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough, and I think is something that we’re going to continue to debate and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward.”

People in Ohio have been “evolving” on the issue, too, said Beck, the political scientist. Ohio “public opinion probably has changed, as it has nationally,” he said.

But “how much it has changed, I don’t know.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.