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1:05 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Will Same-Sex Marriage Swing The Swing States?

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 2:11 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. It's official: Gary Johnson lands the Libertarian presidential nomination. Former standard-bearer Ron Paul picks up GOP delegates. And Democrats wonder about the pace of evolution. It's Wednesday and time for a...

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Absolutely comfortable...

CONAN: Edition of the political junkie.

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?

SENATOR BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

SENATOR LLOYD BENTSEN: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

SARAH PALIN: Lipstick.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: Oops.

PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: But I'm the decider.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us to recap the week in politics. Democrats choose Milwaukee's mayor as their man for Madison, the recall election now a month away. Mourdock mauls Lugar in Indiana. Santorum's 11th-hour endorsement, Mitt's treason moment, and as North Carolina soundly rejects gay marriage, we'll focus on how this issue may play out in two swing states, Colorado and Virginia.

Later in the program, Daniel Yergin on the return of one major Middle East exporter and discoveries in the new world of oil. But first political junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. As usual, we begin with a trivia question. Hey Ken.

KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi, Neal. Well, the big news yesterday of course was the defeat of Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican, who was seeking his seventh term. Now, of all the senators defeated in the primaries over the past half-century, none had that much seniority. So the question is: In the past 50 years, which senator who...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: I even fall asleep during these questions. In the past 50 years, which senator who lost his primary for renomination had the most seniority?

CONAN: If you think you know the senator with the greatest seniority to lose a party primary in the past half-century, give us a phone call.

RUDIN: And there are two possible answers.

CONAN: All right.

RUDIN: But you can only give one.

CONAN: Only one to a customer. Our phone number, 800-989-8255. Email is talk@npr.org. And of course the winner gets a fabulous political junkie no-prize T-shirt. Ken, for those who said the Tea Party movement was dead, it appeared very alive yesterday in Indiana.

RUDIN: Well, there are two ways of interpreting Richard Lugar's defeat yesterday. First of all, yes, he is the - the Tea Party did rally behind Richard Mourdock, the state treasurer, two-time elected state treasurer, and he won overwhelmingly, 61 to 39, which is by any definition a thumping.

Lugar has been in the Senate since 1976, first elected in '76, so - and he's 80 years old. And of course he did say nice things about President Obama and Joe Biden when they were in the Senate together. He did say nice things about bipartisanship, which is not a nice thing to say...

CONAN: Voted for the Obama Supreme Court nominees.

RUDIN: Well, many Republicans did, yes, but that was part of the problem, too. But to blame it only - or to credit, one way or the other, to credit or blame Lugar's defeat on the Tea Party is overstating it in some ways in the fact that yes, he's 80 years old, and he didn't have a residence to vote in. In other words, he had no place to vote.

For a while, the court said he wasn't even eligible to vote in the primary, and finally he found a Lugar family farm where he decided that that's where his residence is. But for somebody to have been in Washington for so long to not come home that much, when he did come home he went to an Indianapolis hotel, and for the longest time he was billing taxpayers for those visits. It was like an out-of-touch thing, and I think that was part of it, as well.

CONAN: So then we have the new candidate, and that is, as we mentioned, Mr. Mourdock, who appeared on Fox News this morning, the GOP candidate for Senate, and laid out his policy on bipartisanship.

RICHARD MOURDOCK: I have a mindset that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.

CONAN: And that is - well, that was savaged by Richard Lugar in a goodbye statement, who said this is unmindful.

RUDIN: No, this is not the way Richard Lugar has been in his 35, 36 years in the Senate, and Mourdock is completely the anti-Lugar. At the same time, the Democrats are excited about this. While they talk about, while they love bipartisanship, and of course President Obama, Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, all said great things about Lugar today, they're obviously excited about the possibility that the Democrats could pick up this seat.

The Democratic nominee is a congressman, Joe Donnelly, who is very conservative. He's anti-abortion. He's pro-gun rights. He's anti-same-sex marriage. So Donnelly gives the Democrats a shot, but I think - but as Lugar says - first of all Lugar could not - some people were saying well maybe he should run as an independent or a third-party candidate like Joe Lieberman did when he lost his primary in Connecticut.

But there was a sore-loser law in Indiana that once you lose the primary, you can't run again. Lugar is backing Mourdock. The question is how convincingly he does.

CONAN: In the meantime, as long as we're talking about Richard Lugar, we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, and that is the senator with the greatest seniority to lose in his party's primary in the past half-century, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. We'll start with Victoria(ph), and Victoria's with us from Anchorage.

VICTORIA: Hello.

CONAN: Hi, Victoria, you're on the air, go ahead.

VICTORIA: I think it's Lisa Murkowski.

RUDIN: Well, Lisa Murkowski, who did lose her primary 2010 but then won it on a...

CONAN: Independent run.

RUDIN: In a third-party independent line, a write-in, actually, she was only in the Senate for one-and-a-half terms. She was appointed by her father, but she was only in one-and-a-half terms.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, good try. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Rich(ph) and Rich with us from Medford in Oregon.

RICH: Hey, thank you for taking my call. I was going to guess Joe Lieberman.

CONAN: Joe Lieberman, the veteran from Connecticut.

RUDIN: Good guess but not good enough. He was in the Senate for three terms when he was defeated in 2006 and then of course won the primary as an independent. But he was only in there for three terms, not the guy we're looking for.

CONAN: Nice try, Rich. Let's go next to - this is Ann(ph), Ann with us from Baltimore.

ANN: Hi.

CONAN: Hi, Ann.

ANN: My guess is Arlen Specter.

RUDIN: Well, Arlen Specter is a correct answer.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.

ANN: (Unintelligible).

RUDIN: There are two - Arlen Specter was first elected in 1980, so he served five terms before he was defeated. Of course, he switched parties along the way, defeated in the 2010 primary. So Arlen Specter is one of the two people I was thinking of.

CONAN: Well, Ann, stay on the line, and we'll collect your particulars and send you a political junkie no-prize T-shirt in exchange for your promise of a digital picture of yourself wearing it so we can post that on our Wall of Shame.

ANN: Absolutely.

CONAN: Congratulations.

ANN: Thanks.

CONAN: But there's still one more correct answer out there. Let's see if we can go to Bob(ph), Bob with us from Sacramento.

BOB: Yeah, I'll go Ralph Yarborough from Texas.

RUDIN: Ralph Yarborough is a good guess. He was beaten by Lloyd Bentsen as you well remember, in 1970, but Ralph Yarborough was only in the Senate for just over two terms when he was defeated.

CONAN: You're no Ralph Yarborough, I'll tell you that.

RUDIN: As Lloyd Bentsen would say.

CONAN: Thanks very much. Let's go to John(ph), John with us from Little Rock.

JOHN: Yes, was it J. William Fulbright?

RUDIN: Wow, that was a tough one, and Fulbright is the correct answer.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.

RUDIN: In 1974 he lost to Dale Bumpers in the primary. He, like Arlen Specter, served five terms in the Senate. By the way, the last six-term senator defeated was a guy named Kenneth McKellar, who lost to a guy named Albert Gore in 1952.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: After six terms, he would have lost to death, you would think, but...

RUDIN: He was pretty old then, yes.

CONAN: All right, stay on the line, John, congratulations, and we'll send you a political junkie no-prize T-shirt as well.

RUDIN: Wow, we got both.

CONAN: We got both. And I even hit the right button there. In the meantime, there was some other interesting primary news yesterday. We start with actual votes when we have the opportunity, including in Wisconsin, Democrats were choosing their candidate to run against - well, in the recall election against the governor.

RUDIN: Right, and the guy who was favored to win did win. That's Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. In 2010, Barrett came within five points of Scott Walker in the gubernatorial race. And now in yesterday's primary, Barrett beat Kathleen Falk, the former Dane County executive, backed by organized labor who basically was the guiding force behind this recall.

But Falk was a little more sympathetic to labor, but not to worry if you're on the left, Democrats and labor will unite behind Barrett, and they have basically a month to go before the June 5 - June 5 recall, where they're going to be running against Scott Walker.

CONAN: And in Milwaukee last night, Tom Barrett, the mayor there, did focus, as he did pretty much throughout the primary election, on his rival, Scott Walker.

MAYOR TOM BARRETT: And we all know what's going on here. Scott Walker, instead of staying home in Wisconsin and focusing on creating jobs here, has decided that he is going to be a rock star, a rock star to the far right in this nation.

CONAN: And that's speaking about his tour across the country as he continues to rake in millions of dollars for this recall election.

RUDIN: In the last three months, absolutely right, last three months Scott Walker has raised over $13 million. What's fascinating about this race is there are very few undecided voters in Wisconsin. I think most of the state's voters have decided how they feel about Scott Walker. Either they love him or they hate him, and we'll find out for sure on June 5.

Only two governors in history, by the way, have been recalled in our history, Gray Davis of California and of course Lynn Frazier of North Dakota in 1921. I know, he was incredible.

CONAN: He was incredible. In any case, there were some, well, other people on the ballot yesterday, including the likely Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, who seems to be collecting delegates left and right.

RUDIN: Well, Mitt Romney is collecting delegates, and he's winning the primaries. Certainly he won all three states yesterday, and what's interesting of course is that Ron Paul seems to be getting a lot of delegates in - when the battle goes to the state conventions. But Romney, of course, did very well in all the states, as we expected.

What was more surprisingly, I thought, was in the West Virginia primary, in the Democratic side, President Obama of course has never been popular in West Virginia, shall we say. I mean, he lost to Hillary Clinton by 41 points in the primary, lost to John McCain in November.

But this felon, the convicted felon from Texas, a guy named Keith Judd who's serving the - is in prison in Texas, he got 41 percent of the statewide vote in West Virginia against President Obama, and potentially he gets some delegates, but whether he does or not - again look, Obama's not going to win West Virginia anyway in November, but 41 percent is a lot.

CONAN: In the meantime, the president officially kicked off his election campaign. Yes, he is running for re-election. There were rallies in, well, places like Ohio, which are going to be pretty critical to his election. And his campaign released a campaign ad, which touted the many problems which he faced when he first took office.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADVERTISEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Some said our best days were behind us, but not him.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Don't bet against the American worker.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He believed in us, fought for us, and today our auto industry is back, firing on all cylinders, our greatest enemy brought to justice by our greatest heroes. Our troops are home from Iraq. Instead of losing jobs, we're creating them, over 4.2 million so far. We're not there yet. It's still too hard for too many. But we're coming back because America's greatness comes from a strong middle class because you don't quit, and neither does he.

CONAN: Well, we're coming back, it's a start. It's not their most ringing morning-in-America type ad you've ever heard.

RUDIN: No, but of course he has a record he's going to have to defend, and he knows that, but at the same time, Mitt Romney is going to try to tear it apart at every opportunity.

CONAN: In the meantime, gay marriage became a major issue when Vice President Biden said he is absolutely comfortable with it, and the president's position is still evolving. That may be changing today. We'll be talking about how this issue may play out in a couple of swing states when we come back after a short break. Stay with us. It's political junkie day on TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. It's political junkie day. Ken Rudin is here, as he is every Wednesday, mostly. Ken, new ScuttleButton winner this week?

RUDIN: I believe there is. I'm so glad you asked me that. The last puzzle was, there was a picture of the pope going to Poland, the Polish pope going to Poland. There was a Wallace for president, and there was a Ringo Starr button. So when you add the pope...

CONAN: I think even I could get this.

RUDIN: That would be John, Paul...

CONAN: George and Ringo.

RUDIN: That's correct, known as the Rolling Stones. Anyway - no, that was The Beatles, right.

CONAN: I think so, the Silver Beatles originally.

RUDIN: Joseph Barrent(ph) of St. Louis, Missouri, is the correct winner.

CONAN: And he gets a political junkie no-prize T-shirt, as well. And there's a new ScuttleButton puzzle and Ken's latest political junkie column. You can see those both online, go to npr.org/junkie.

For much of this week, the White House has played down Vice President Joe Biden's latest comments on gay marriage. Sunday on "Meet the Press," the president was candid about his position on the issue.

BIDEN: The president accepts the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men and women marrying women and heterosexual men marrying women are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don't see much of a distinction beyond that.

CONAN: Well, that's the vice president. The next day, the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, said he favors gay marriage, as well. As we speak, the president is giving an interview to "Good Morning America" scheduled to air tomorrow where he's going to be addressing this issue. His position continues to evolve, at least at last check.

And Ken Rudin, this is going to be an issue no matter where the president speaks. Yesterday in North Carolina, that became the 30th state to enact a constitutional ban on gay marriage. The economy continues to loom large. That's going to be the issue, maybe, where this is decided, but in many states where it's so very close, the most recent poll shows the president and Mitt Romney dead even in the nine swing states that everybody expects will decide this election, an issue like gay marriage could make a difference.

RUDIN: And it does, and as you point out, every state that's ever been on the ballot has always gone down to defeat. Every state that tried to legalize same-sex marriage, it's been defeated. Yesterday in North Carolina it went down 61 to 39 percent, pretty overwhelming.

Even though President Obama was opposed to the measure, Bill Clinton was out there giving robo-calls in support - in favor of defeating this measure. But look, same-sex marriage was already illegal in North Carolina. Now it's a constitutional amendment, which also outlaws same-sex unions.

CONAN: In the meantime, we want to hear how this issue is playing out where you live. How is it going to make a difference in this race? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Floyd Ciruli joins us now, he's a Colorado-based pollster, political analyst and founder of Ciruli Associates, a polling and consulting firm. He joins us from the studios of member station KUVO in Denver. Nice to have you with us today.

FLOYD CIRULI: Good to be here, Neal.

CONAN: And gay marriage is banned in Colorado. This week, the topic of civil unions came up on the legislative agenda, but the clock ran out.

CIRULI: That's right. Civil unions was proposed this year. The governor was in favor of it. Polls out here indicate that it is favored by the public, but the Republicans control the House here, and they ran the clock at the end of this session, and so it died of a procedural death. It simply wasn't considered.

It had been reported that several Republicans would have voted for it, up to five, and hence had it ever gotten to the floor, it probably would have passed.

CONAN: It did get out of committee, so that was the indication that at least some Republicans support.

CIRULI: That's right, and as I say, there's been some polling late last year and a little bit early this year showing that it is favored. And, you know, that reflects in a huge amount of movement because in 1992, it was Colorado that sort of launched a national dialogue on gay rights because we supported a limitation on gay rights, which was ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court.

And we have actually fairly recently, within about the last six years, voted against both civil unions and gay marriage in Colorado. But yet the polls indicate that gay marriage in Colorado is about dead even, as it is nationally, but that civil unions is in fact leading pretty substantially with just general public opinion.

CONAN: And if this becomes an issue in the race, is it going to be a factor? In the presidential race is what I'm talking about.

CIRULI: You know, that's a good question. I think definitely if the president evolves a little more today on it or comes out in favor of it specifically, there are Democrats and unaffiliated voters here that he wants in this election because we are assuming it's going to be a couple of percentage points in this state, at least at the moment that's our thought. Hence, that's about maybe 40,000 votes.

But definitely the polls indicate that up to a third of Democrats and 40 percent unaffiliated voters are opposed to gay marriage, and so I think that that's what - assuming there's a political calculation in the president's thinking, along with his philosophy and other views, that that's what's restraining him from moving forward.

And of course North Carolina is a targeted state, just as Colorado is.

CONAN: And Ken, I have to ask you about this. For four years, the president's position has been evolving. This is the president who stopped "don't ask, don't tell," who now says the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and has come out in - against the amendment that passed yesterday in North Carolina. After his own vice president comes out and says he's in favor of gay marriage, doesn't the president look a little weak?

RUDIN: Well, we're talking about profiles in courage, and that's exactly right. Joe Biden obviously showed no hesitancy, nor does Joe Biden ever show hesitancy in telling us what he thinks.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: But President Obama also knows, as I said before, that every time it's on the ballot, it's overwhelmingly defeated, and he knows he has to stand for re-election. The thought has always been that once in a second term, should he get a second term, his evolving on gay rights would be more pronounced. But it's very possible, as you say, that the interview he's having with "Good Morning America" may further show more evolvement.

CONAN: And Floyd Ciruli, some people might say, well, those people who oppose gay marriage, they're likely to vote against the president anyway. Is that entirely true?

CIRULI: Well, as you know, the issue of social - or the social issues have not been really huge in this presidential election. We've been talking overwhelmingly about the economy, but suddenly it has loomed large. And at least to some extent I think the president's theory is that you sort of pick off voters by implying that the Republicans are extreme on one issue or the other.

Well, I think he's also vulnerable to that. And as I pointed out, polls indicate that there are a percentage of Democrats and unaffiliated voters that are still not reconciled to gay marriage. I mean, it's amazing. As Ken knows, it's evolved so much since, say, 1993, when President Clinton was dealing with it and having a hard time with it, with "don't ask, don't tell" and the military, to now having the public 50-50.

But 50-50 still means it's a very polarized issue, and it has huge passion. Last night we had crowds at the state capital, including actually the room had to be cleared for a while because it got so heated. So consequently, both passion and polarization, I think, makes the president move very gingerly here.

CONAN: Crowds supporting which side?

CIRULI: Well, they were primarily supporting passing it. But the Republicans I think know very much that there's tremendous passion on the conservative side, also. In fact, you can get yourself a primary if you're on the wrong side of that issue, particularly among evangelicals. And as you know, this was a state that went for Rick Santorum in the Republican caucuses, and we often have very, very tough inter-party primaries, particularly in the Republican Party recently.

CONAN: Let's get a caller in on this. Let's go to Lawrence(ph), and Lawrence is with us from Cincinnati.

LAWRENCE: Hey, good afternoon, gentlemen.

CONAN: Good afternoon.

LAWRENCE: I'm calling because I've got an issue with the fact that the president is considering coming out in support of gay marriage. And I'll tell you, being in Ohio, a battleground state, it's an issue because it's dead in Ohio, and with, you know, the - my Christian beliefs and with a lot of my colleagues' Christian belief, you know, people are somewhat skeptical about Mitt Romney, about what he believes in.

At the same time, look at gay marriage, say that's not something that we should be supporting. So I could see a lot of people staying home in Ohio, which could dramatically impact the outcome in the state of Ohio.

CONAN: Lawrence, when you say you and your colleagues, forgive me, are you African-American?

LAWRENCE: Yes, I am.

CONAN: And so this has been a big issue, I know, in many African-American churches.

LAWRENCE: No question about it. It's talked about. And another issue about it is that, you know, people thought they've already made history with electing Barack Obama, and the problem that many African-Americans have with it is that a lot of times, the gay community equivalates(ph) their issues with the civil rights in the 1960s, and a lot of African-Americans are offended by that.

So a lot of people who I know just have strong feelings against gay marriage. They don't want to affirm those sort of unions, and I think that it's going to be something that could make a lot of people stay home and not even want to vote for either candidate.

CONAN: Lawrence, thanks very much for the phone call. And Ken Rudin, there is a political risk to this, as Floyd Ciruli has been saying, amongst Democrats, amongst key constituencies for the president, African-Americans, where he commands tremendous support, and Hispanics, where he's hoping to get 70 percent.

RUDIN: And, obviously, Colorado is a perfect example of the latter, and that's exactly right in the sense that if Obama is to get a second term, he's going to have to keep those gains he made of those normally Republican states - like Virginia, like Indiana, like North Carolina, like Florida and Ohio, states like that - where any amount of turnoff from the Obama coalition from 2008 - be it African-Americans, be it young voters, be it conservative Democrats - could doom his chances.

CONAN: And, Floyd Ciruli, does your polling, just in general, support the findings that we've been hearing that pretty much in a place like Colorado, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama about dead even at this point?

CIRULI: That's right. I think it - probably, the president is about maybe two points ahead, and it's fairly volatile. As you know, Romney has really just opened his campaign up. He's here today for the first time. He's up in a strong Republican area here that went for Santorum. So to some extent, he's working his base. He's at a gas and oil facility, obviously, talking about energy prices and what he thinks is Obama's weakness on gas and oil production.

But he is really just beginning and sort of starting to consolidate. And the polls indicate it's fairly - it is close, it's within a couple of points. And so that I think the president is looking for sort of zero distractions, of being able to talk overwhelmingly on what he thinks are the strengths of his record and, obviously, the future, the way like the ad that you played - showed. So I see this as a very difficult issue for him because, obviously, there are strong people in favor of gay rights, including constituents of his.

But it definitely has all the markings of an issue that you wouldn't want to lead with. As you know, the polls indicate, including ours, that one of his weaknesses is he is seen as more liberal than both his supporters but in particular the public in general, certainly the public he's reaching out to, the undecided voter. And so things that reinforces liberalism as opposed to bread-and-butter kinds of economic issues, I think, are what he would consider a distraction.

CONAN: And he may have been hoping that he could continue to evolve until the issue is settled by the Supreme Court and wouldn't have to take a position. But, Floyd Ciruli, thanks very much for your time today. Appreciate it.

CIRULI: Good to be here.

CONAN: Floyd Ciruli, Colorado-based pollster and political analyst and founder of Ciruli Associates, at member station KUVO in Denver. Professor Quentin Kidd chairs the Department of Government at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, where he directs the Judy Ford Watson Center for Public Policy. He joins us from his office on the campus there. Nice to have you with us today.

DR. QUENTIN KIDD: Good to be with you, Neal.

CONAN: And how is this issue likely to play out in Virginia, another key swing state?

KIDD: Well, you know, what Barack Obama needs in Virginia, that he doesn't have right now and he had in 2008, is the support of young voters, the, say, the 39-and-under crowd, 40-and-under crowd. They're less excited about him right now than they were in 2008. Some of them have peeled off, maybe and gone more independent or might be thinking about voting Republican. And so this is a particular issue, gay marriage, that is really - might be really attractive to that group because that age group is the most supportive of gay marriage, is the most supportive of gay adoption rights, for example, an issue that Virginia dealt with last year.

And I'm talking about numbers in the 70, 75 percent approval for those issues. And so, you know, if this is going to be a campaign about micro-targeting, then this might be an issue that Barack Obama talks about on college campuses, the University of Virginia, VCU, for example, George Mason and maybe in Northern Virginia where there's a large younger population of voters, but maybe doesn't talk about so much in Norfolk or Richmond and talks about economic issues, for example.

CONAN: That's where large African-American communities there.

KIDD: Right.

CONAN: We're talking about the politics of gay marriage. Ken Rudin is here. It's political junkie day. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Ken?

RUDIN: Quentin, we heard one of the callers earlier, Lawrence from Ohio who's African-American, talking about his reticence about same-sex marriage. Now - not that Lawrence speaks for all African-Americans, but obviously, we've heard in the black community, there is reluctance, and Virginia does have a sizable African-American voting constituency. What are you hearing about that in Virginia?

KIDD: Well, that's right. African-American voters are socially conservative in, you know, in large - in a large sense, and gay marriage is one of those issues that they tend to be more conservative on, say, than the Democratic Party, generally. But in 2008 when Virginia passed the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, it failed in only two congressional districts - the 8th Congressional District, which is right up against Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., area, and the 3rd Congressional District, which is the majority-minority district in Virginia.

And so I don't, you know, African-Americans aren't of one voice on gay marriage. And I - and so I don't think it's just a losing proposition writ large amongst African-American voters. You know, I think as many as would oppose it, would also not oppose it. And so, you know, I think if the presidential - if the president's campaign micro-targets instead of, you know, broad brushing it on gay marriage in Virginia, then I don't think it would come across the same way as if it were a general issue that he spoke about across the state.

CONAN: And every indication we have is they're going to micro-target on every level. But in the meantime, let's go to Tom. Tom with us from Wilmington, in North Carolina.

TOM: Hi. Good afternoon, guys.

CONAN: Afternoon.

TOM: Got into work this morning. I work in a law firm. And there was a small group of us talking about the constitutional amendment and the fact that it had passed. A couple of things. First, it was amazing, and I think this is coming out in the reports that people didn't realize really what the amendment said. It wasn't an amendment to bar gay marriage.

CONAN: Well, it did that, but it did other things too.

TOM: It did other things too. And what I think we know...

CONAN: But let's look ahead to November, Tom.

TOM: What's that?

CONAN: Let's look ahead to November.

TOM: OK. Well, the second part of that was - is how - I want to say confused and kind of blindsided some of the people were, and we have people that works here that are gay. They're openly gay. And what I'm wondering is, that in North Carolina, it may be that President Obama stands back and doesn't take a position on this right now. But it's possible that this having happened in North Carolina might actually energize the base in some way. Because if you are not careful, things can happen when you are not watching.

CONAN: All right, Tom.

TOM: And I think this maybe have been one of them.

CONAN: Interesting theory. Thanks very much for the call. We appreciate it.

TOM: Thank you.

CONAN: And we want to thank Quentin Kidd for his time. Appreciate it.

KIDD: Take care, Neal.

CONAN: Quentin Kidd, chair of the Department of Government at Christopher Newport University. And, of course, we don't mean to get ahead of ourselves. The president's position so far as we know is evolving, though he is, as we mentioned earlier, speaking in an interview on this issue to "Good Morning America." So at worst, we'll find out tomorrow morning how his position has evolved. Meanwhile, Ken Rudin will evolve back into the political junkie next week on this program. We'll see you then, Ken.

RUDIN: Thanks, Neal.

CONAN: Coming up, we'll be talking about oil with Daniel Yergin, the oil historian, and the re-emergence of a major oil exporter in the Middle East: Iraq. Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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