North Carolina Amendment 1 Means Daunting Electoral Math for Obama

One of the largest issues filling this news cycle’s election coverage has been the debate over gay marriage in North Carolina in the form of Amendment One. Passing with over 60% of the vote yesterday, the amendment is designed to constitutionally enshrine the protection of heterosexual marriage.

With Vice President Joe Biden essentially endorsing gay marriage, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan plainly following suit, one is left wondering how Obama can credibly maintain his “evolving” viewpoints schtick. As many analysts have assumed, his decision to remain silent is crassly political; and it seems the data leads to that exact conclusion.  

If you take a look at the electoral map from 30,000 feet, you see an incredibly competitive field. From Real Clear Politics, to Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenburg, you see President Obama vying for a small handful of electoral votes that include North Carolina. Playing around with the New York Time’s interactive Electoral College map, there are a number of scenarios that lead to a razor thin victory for either candidate (and even a plausible tie scenario), making every possible swing-state the linchpin; so much so the DNC, likely at the Obama campaign’s behest, placed the national convention in none other than Charlotte, North Carolina.

Obama won North Carolina in 2008, along with its 15 electoral votes, by 14,177 votes, or nearly 10,000 less than when the Tar Heels took on Ohio University in overtime during the March NCAA tournament. Largely accounting for that victory was African American turnout, which swung for Obama by over 95%, according to exit polls. Assuming Obama was to garner as much support in every single category, but lose only 1.5% of the African American vote, he loses the state and possibly the election; thus the very real political concern.

County after county that swung in the president’s column in 2008 also voted in favor of the amendment, such as Hertford County, which, with a 60% African American community, voted overwhelmingly (70%) in favor of the ballot measure. Such a lopsided effect was also present in California during its contentious debate over Proposition 8, where many African American voters cast a ballot both for the president yet against gay marriage.  

Ironically, it may not be the president’s conservative opposition, but likely by his own political constituency that accounts for his stunningly milquetoast response to this widely vexing moral, religious, but ultimately, political issue. It seems this election won’t be about Obama persuading his way to an electorate he wants, but by playing to the one he's got.

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Rey Fuentes

A Wyoming native, Rey is currently completing his master's degree in Economic and Social History at the University of Cambridge after completing a previous masters in Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics. He is a true political junkie, in the best sense of the phrase, and is happiest engaging with people who disagree with him.

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