According to the most recent Gallup poll on the matter, 65 percent of Democrats believe gay marriage should be legal, while 34 percent believe it shouldn't. A full 40 percent of independents believe gay marriage should not be legal. And the Democrats are holding their convention in a swing state, North Carolina, where voters recently approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
The rational design behind all this is that Barack Obama can't be re-elected without winning big among women. The newest Gallup polling shows equal gender gaps: Mitt Romney leads the president 50 percent to 42 percent among men, while the president leads Romney 50 to 42 percent among women. It's a gap that has been consistent for months now, and Obama hopes to eke out a victory by making a few more women nervous about voting Republican in the last weeks of the campaign. "The Obama campaign believes that college-educated women, and the margin the president could win among them, will decide the election," says a well-informed Democratic strategist not connected to the campaign.
But not all of this is a rational calculation. If you stand on the floor of a Democratic convention when a speaker is discussing abortion, you can feel the depth of the emotion that many Democrats feel on the issue. Conservatives like to say abortion is a liberal sacrament. Maybe that's going too far, but it is very, very important. And when something means so much to a group of people, they can easily convince themselves that it means that much to others, too.
Meanwhile, the voters continue to say, overwhelmingly, that they want their president to focus on the economy and job creation. By choosing to spotlight abortion and gay marriage at their national convention, Democrats could give voters the impression that they've got their priorities all mixed up. Sandra Fluke may draw headlines, but does she really represent what voters think is most important?