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North Carolina's gay-marriage fight -- and the meaning for Obama

September 12, 2011 |  7:41 am

Obama 
Could the fight against gay marriage in North Carolina affect the broader fight over leadership of the free world?

It's a possibility brewing in the state capitol in Raleigh. North Carolina Republicans, who recently won control of the state legislature for the first time since Reconstruction, will begin debate Monday on whether to let voters decide next year on a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in their state, the Associated Press reports.

The state already has a law banning same-sex marriage. The referendum would determine whether the prohibition would be enshrined in the state constitution.

Set aside for a moment the profound moral, religious and cultural questions and consider what such a ballot measure might mean for a straight, married, D.C.-dwelling guy like, oh ... President Obama.

Obama squeaked out a victory in North Carolina in 2008, collecting 15 electoral votes and sending a message that this was the rare Southern state where a Democrat could play ball -- thanks in large part to a Prius-friendly, latte-sipping, white-collar demographic in places like the so-called Research Triangle of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill.

There's no question Team Obama is hoping to re-create the magic in the Tar Heel state: The Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte, and a recent Obama YouTube campaign ad features a middle-aged white guy named "Ed" from North Carolina, who sits on a porch in a blue button-down shirt and drawls: "I don't agree with Obama on everything, but I respect him and trust him."

But it's not all Priuses and lattes in the state that gave the world NASCAR and Jesse Helms, and putting a gay-marriage issue on the same ballot as a presidential contest is a well-established GOP strategy to turn out social conservatives.

It could still have some juice, even in the age of Gaga and "Glee."

"There's no doubt that there would be some advantage in motivating voters for Republican candidates," Ferrel Guillory, director of the Program on Public Life at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told the Associated Press, adding: "We are polarized on this."

A September survey by Public Policy Polling found that 43% of North Carolinians approved of Obama's job performance. The polling group puts his chances of winning the state again at 50-50.

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-- Richard Fausset in Atlanta

Photo: President Obama participating in a service project Saturday in Washington, D.C. At left is his daughter Malia. Credit: Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press

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