EXPERT CONTACT :
Joshua Dyck, PhD
Associate Professor of Political Science
University at Buffalo
President Barack Obama's "evolving" position on gay marriage should be understood as a shrewd political move that carries a considerable, but calculated, risk.
The proceeding months will unveil how it pans out, but right now, President Obama and the Democrats are entering uncharted campaign territory.
Over the last 30 years, Republicans have used their positions on social issues to galvanize the electorate and mobilize their base. Obama's support for marriage equality signals that the President intends to make the 2012 campaign about more than the economy -- he intends to take the fight to the Republican party on the social issue front.
So far we have seen the Obama campaign characterize Romney and the Republicans as anti-immigrant and anti-woman and his affirmation of his support for gay marriage demonstrates that the President plans to hold Republicans accountable for positions on this issue as well.
With modest economic growth and some warning signals from the economy, the political environment in 2012 is, and will continue to be, extremely competitive.
In a close election, mobilization of core supporters becomes critical. While the President's evolving position on gay marriage has the potential to help conservatives mobilize voters, this move is clearly aimed at mobilizing many on the left who may feel less excited by Obama's promises of hope and change in 2012 than they were in 2008.