Michael Barone
Is it panic time at Obama headquarters in Chicago? You might get that impression from watching events -- and the polls -- over the past few weeks.

In matchups against Mitt Romney, the president is leading by only 47 to 45 percent in the realclearpolitics.com average of recent polls. A CBS/New York Times panelback poll, in which interviewers call back respondents to a previous survey, showed Romney leading 46 to 43 percent -- and leading among women.

That's despite the Democrats' charge that Republicans are waging a "war on women" by opposing requirements that all health insurance policies provide free contraceptives. Evidently that's not the only issue on the minds of American women.

Or consider the clumsiness of Obama's announcement a week ago that after "evolving" he is now in favor of same-sex marriage.

This was clearly not rolled out according to some long-term plan. On Sunday, May 6, Joe Biden told "Meet the Press" that he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage. On Monday, press secretary Jay Carney was so battered with questions about the issue that he cancelled the daily press briefing for Tuesday.

Then, at a hastily arranged interview with ABC News on Wednesday, Obama announced his switch.

As a supporter of same-sex marriage, I am glad that Obama took the step that Dick Cheney took several years ago. Like many Americans, he changed his mind at some point and supported a policy that almost no one backed a quarter-century ago.

Recent polls report that about half of Americans now back same-sex marriage. True, voters in North Carolina on Tuesday voted to ban same-sex marriage by a 61 to 39 percent margin. But only a few years ago, any political pro would have been astonished to see the issue get 39 percent support in a state where 44 percent of voters are white evangelical Protestants.

And some same-sex marriage supporters may be grumbling that even more would have done so if Obama had made his announcement one day before the vote rather than one day after.

Obama was facing a tough political choice on the issue. He needs two groups of voters who often don't turn out in large numbers to do so this fall: blacks and young voters. Young Americans tend to favor same-sex marriage by wide margins. Black Americans have tended to oppose it by wide margins (though not as wide this month in North Carolina, it seems, as in California in 2008, where 70 percent voted against it).

By saying he was still against same-sex marriage but was "evolving" on the issue, Obama sought to avoid riling black voters while giving a wink to young voters hinting he shared their view.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM