President Obama has finally come out publicly in support of gay marriage. To be clear, Obama said in an interview with ABC that this was just what he believed "personally" and it has no tangible policy impact -- he still thinks the issue should be left to the states. The about face seems to be a recognition that his muddled position was untenable as well as a result of pressure from donors. Moments after the news broke, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was already fundraising off of it. So how will the news affect him politically?
There are a number of ways to look at that question. One argument is that embracing gay marriage isn't very risky at all, or at least, a lot less risky than it was in 2008. Here's a Gallup chart demonstrating how public opinion has shifted toward acceptance of gay marriage since 1996:
Gallup also found that 57 percent of independents supported gay marriage.
On the flipside, gay marriage continues to do poorly when it's on the ballot, as we were reminded yesterday as a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage passed by over 20 points in the swing state of North Carolina.
Among key demographic groups, the marriage issue polls the best among younger voters, who Obama needs to reenergize if he's to win again in November. It tends to do worse among older voters and hispanics. The issue could also theoretically motivate evangelicals who are otherwise reluctant to get behind Mitt Romney.
Of course, the issue could also end up being a wash, with economic concerns overwhelming it in importance.