What Kay Hagan tells us about gay marriage

So, NC’s incredibly risk-averse Democratic Senator Kay Hagan finally came out in favor of gay marriage today.  Plenty of speculation about how this might hurt her for the general election, but I’m pretty convinced otherwise.  As much as for any reason because I don’t think Hagan would do this if she thought it might cost her the election.  The initial report I read came from the N&O included this line:

“I’m not interested in playing political pundit,” Hagan said when asked how she thought her stance would affect her re-election prospects. “I’ve never made a decision based on future elections.”

I think I laughed out loud when I read that.  Hagan is a very calculating politician.  Thus, when a very calculating politician makes this move, it tells us that more likely than not, it’s a winning one.   Somewhat to my dismay, gay marriage has become the sine qua non of liberal politics.  I think Hagan realized that she could not afford to further alienate/antagonize the liberal base on this issue and with politics changing so fast her benefit from pleasing the left would likely outweigh lost 2014 voters, as most of those anti gay marriage voters were never available to her anyway.

You can watch me break it down in highly-edited format for the local news here.

I also wanted to share Seth Masket’s comment about a similar call from Virginia Senator Mark Warner:

Hackish centrist, running for reelection statewide in Virginia, not known for taking a strong stance on anything, has just endorsed same sex marriage because he thinks it will help him keep his job. *That’s* what change looks like.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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