(Interesting — I hope you’re right, on both counts! – promoted by lowkell)
I know this is a blog focused on Virginia Beach, and politics in Virginia by extension, but the passage of the addition of a 2012 ballot measure to decided on an anti-gay marriage/civil unions amendment in North Carolina fascinates me. The North Carolina Senate passed the legislation adding the ballot measure yesterday.
My first thought was that this was 2004 all over again, where 11 states included anti-gay marriage questions on the ballot during the presidential election. The inclusion of these ballot questions is generally seen to have helped George Bush win reelection (this in addition to not raising taxes to pay for the wars, Kerry’s inability to really connect with people, etc.).
Then, reading further into the details, I realized that North Carolina Republicans, who control both the North Carolina House of Representatives and Senate, placed the ballot question on the May 2012 ballot, and not the November ballot. This was surprising, as I was sure they’d want to use the issue of gay marriage to fire up the evangelical right, which would likely boost turnout and support for the Republican presidential nominee.
Thinking about this, two things stick out to me. The first is that Republicans must not believe their ballot question will have the support it needs to amend the constitution in North Carolina in a general election. The second is that Republicans must believe that the 2012 presidential election will go to Obama in their state, no matter what they do.
A recent poll from Public Policy Polling shows that while North Carolinians are against gay marriage, they also do not support an amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions. In fact, the poll shows 55% of the general population do not support the amendment Republicans in the General Assembly are pushing for. Even worst, 47% of self identified Republicans said they are against the amendment, with only 37% of self identified Republicans saying they would vote for it. The only way this amendment will pass is if they can get the more hardcore Republicans to turn out and vote for it. As primary elections usually bring out hardcore partisans voters, placing the question on the ballot during the 2012 presidential primary election is the only hope for this amendment to pass. While this indicates progress for LGBT equality, this tactic is pretty shady. Constitutional amendments should be placed on general election ballots, where turnout is always greater.
Public Policy Polling is also showing Obama doing well in North Carolina. Voters aren’t willing to support a default Republican candidate, and Obama led Romney (who was the front runner at the time of the poll) by three points. This probably irks Republican leaders in North Carolina, as who the Republican nominee is will matter in North Carolina. A Republican win is far from guaranteed, even with Obama having won North Carolina in 2008 by only .4%, the slow economic recovery, and high unemployment.
With general voters not supporting the Republican efforts to add discriminatory language to their state constitution, and with Obama still doing well in the face of a difficult economy, adding the ballot question to the 2012 general election ballot would likely cause the effort to amend the constitution to fail and not drive higher conservative turnout, at least not enough to win the state for the Republican nominee. The choice to place the question on the May 2012 ballot is a pretty good signal that Republicans are lacking confidence about both their social policy and their ability to win the White House in 2012.