Why Obama’s Gay Marriage Stance Won’t Much Matter in November
Throughout 2010, Murphy, an Iraq War veteran and West Point instructor first elected to the House of Representatives four years earlier, worked tirelessly to convince other moderate Democrats to support his Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal bill. At the same time he was running for reelection in a district that was more conservative on the issue: Pennsylvania’s Eighth, which encompasses the white-ethnic neighborhoods of northeast Philadelphia, the swing-voter suburbs of Montgomery County, the blue-collar towns of Lower Bucks County, and the agricultural areas to the north.
Asked in late October if he was worried that adopting DADT as his signature issue would hurt him politically, Murphy didn’t blink. “Absolutely not,” he said. “I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution as an Army officer and as a congressman. I take that oath to heart, and I’m going to fight for the values that are in our Constitution.”
Two weeks later, Murphy lost his seat by 7 percentage points.
Now Republicans are hoping that Obama will suffer the same fate. For a few minutes after the president came out in favor of gay marriage Wednesday, Washington paused to reflect on the historical significance of his announcement. Then it got back to doing what it does best: speculating about something’s so-called political impact (regardless of whether that impact can actually be assessed with the information at hand). In this case the question was whether Obama’s gay-marriage gambit would hurt him with the all-important swing voters who will decide November’s election.
Even Murphy, reached by phone that afternoon, seemed to think it might. “Clearly this is not the most politically popular move with an election six months away,” he told me. “As Bobby Kennedy once said, ‘Change is hard because change has enemies.’ I know the enemies of marriage equality will be mobilized to take the fight to the Philadelphia suburbs.”