Christian conservatives are likely to mobilize more than ever against President Obama in reaction to his endorsement of same-sex marriage, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will benefit because he has reaffirmed his opposition to such unions, conservative Christian leaders say.
"This is an unanticipated gift to the Romney campaign," says conservative activist Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a longtime Christian organizer on the right. "It will alienate voters who believe he [Obama] does not share their values and is certain to fuel a record turnout of voters of faith to the polls this November."
The Rev. Joel Hunter, an evangelical leader in Florida who advises Obama on spiritual matters, told The Washington Post that he is against what Obama did. Hunter said Obama's position will cause him "as much hurt as it will help" and, "There will be many groups who feel like it is an attack on the foundations of their faith."
It could also peel away some support from African Americans, who tend to oppose same-sex marriage, although most of the black community is likely to remain staunchly supportive of Obama.
Of course, Obama's endorsement is likely to generate more contributions to and support for his campaign from the gay community, along with liberals and young voters. Richard Socarides, a former adviser on gay issues to President Bill Clinton, said the endorsement "frames the president nicely as a thoughtful, decisive leader who will stand up for what he believes in."
But the fallout probably will hurt Obama in swing states where there are large numbers of Christian conservative voters who oppose gay marriage and homosexuality. These include Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia.
The latest Gallup poll finds that 50 percent of Americans support gay marriage, with 48 percent opposing it. Some states have legalized such unions, but three-quarters of the states have passed legal prohibitions on gay marriage. North Carolina voters cast their ballots overwhelmingly to make gay marriage illegal Tuesday.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes a daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter.