What Does Iowa's Gay Marriage Ruling Mean For 2012?
by Todd Beeton, Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 02:50:15 PM EDT
Yesterday, the Iowa Supreme Court issued their unanimous ruling repealing the ban on same-sex marriage. While much coverage has focused on Iowa's becoming the first midwestern state to allow same sex marriage, I think the far more interesting story here is how this will impact the 2012 presidential race.
The New York Times has an article about the strategy behind targeting Iowa and concludes:
The ruling will be like catnip for Republicans running for president in 2012. They have long denounced gay marriage and will use the decision to mine votes in Iowa, the staging ground for the presidential campaign.
It may prove more problematic for President Obama. Like most Democratic politicians, he has favored civil unions, not gay marriage. But the decision will be welcomed by a portion of his base and pressure may build for him to support gay marriage.
Over at The Fix, Chris Cilizza thinks this could pose a big problem for potential presidential candidate Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah.
One person who could potentially be hurt by today's ruling is Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) who has staked out a moderate position on the issue -- expressing his support for civil unions earlier this year despite the fact that large numbers of Utah voters oppose the idea. "I'm a firm believer in the traditional construct of marriage, a man and a woman," the governor told the Deseret News. "But I also think that we can go a greater distance in enhancing equal rights for others in nontraditional relationships."
It remains to be seen whether Huntsman's position -- against same-sex marriage but in support of civil unions -- is too nuanced to pass muster for social conservative voters. But the Iowa decision almost certainly means Huntsman will be on the spot to explain his position as he prepares to run for president.
But it seems to me both of these judgments presume an April 2009 mindset, not one of January 2012. Sure, this is a boon for GOP 2012 hopefuls who traffic in "family values" fearmongering (I'm talking about you, Palin and Huckabee) but it's hardly good news for the Republican field. By the time Iowans begin to caucus in 2012, same sex couples will have been marrying for more than 2 1/2 years in Iowa. Both there and throughout the country, same sex marriage will have become relatively mainstream and normalized and I anticipate we're going to start to see more Democrats come out in favor of gay marriage (as Chuck Schumer recently did) and more Republicans come out in favor of civil unions (as Jon Huntsman recently did.)
So, what does this mean for the Iowa caucuses in 2012? Certainly I'd agree that the Huckabee/Palin school of candidate is now even more likely to win Iowa but it could also lead Iowa down a road to electoral irrelevancy. Already, we saw that in 2008 -- Huckabee, really? -- where New Hampshire, whose electorate is far more consistent with that of the nation as a whole, was the kingmaker. As attitudes continue to shift in this new Obama era, the Huckabees and Palins of the world will continue to be more and more marginalized, which might lead to the emergence of a moderate candidate who'll use New Hampshire as a springboard toward the Republican nomination. Now, of course, the opposite could happen and the conservative wing could really take over the GOP over the next couple years, driving moderates out of the party altogether and ensuring a fringe wingnut becomes their 2012 nominee. While I would welcome this continued marginalization of the Republican Party, a lot can happen in 2 years and I'm not convinced that's the path they're going to take.