resident Obama made history last week by becoming the first sitting president to endorse same-sex marriage. However, Americans aren't convinced that the president completed his "evolution" on the issue out of the goodness of his heart. According to a New York Times/CBS poll, 67 percent of respondents say Obama made the announcement "mostly for political reasons." That survey bolsters arguments from conservatives that Obama's announcement stemmed from political calculation, and that he is using gay marriage and headline-making cultural issues to distract voters from the country's most dire concern: The lackluster economy. Is Obama using the culture wars to change the conversation?
Yes. The economy is Obama's Achilles heel: Obama's embrace of gay marriage and other cultural hot buttons is "a way to talk about something — anything! — besides his economic record," says Ross Douthat at The New York Times. On contraception, immigration, and gay rights, Obama is taking advantage of the fact that "the country is moving leftward on many social issues," and casting Mitt Romney's "mix of squareness and weirdness" as a sign that he's "culturally out of touch." But painting Romney as a 1950s throwback "won't be enough if the economy keeps sputtering along."
"Winning the news cycle, losing the race"
No. The economy is still Obama's top issue: Obama is all "about contrasting his vision for the economy with Mitt Romney," says Alec MacGillis at The New Republic. The campaign kicked off with an economy-themed rally in Ohio, has played up the government's rescue of the auto industry, and released an ad excoriating Romney for the ruthless business practices of his former company, Bain Capital. Obama would "rather fight this campaign on the terrain of a recovering auto industry and Bain's billions, rather than over gay rights."
"So much for Obama's social issues strategy"
Romney is the one avoiding the real economic issues: Republicans say they're eager to move beyond "distractions" like gay marriage, and "if they're not careful, they might get their wish," says Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post. Romney's strategy consists of chanting "the word 'economy' like a mantra" without going into specifics, out of fear that voters will see that his plan consists entirely of "tax cuts and deregulation," which is a "repeat of the Bush-era policies that led to the crisis." The Romney campaign wants to project a simple image — "a successful businessman who'll put us back in business" — and would rather not talk about how to actually fix the economy.
"Romney is no economic savior"
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