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Karl Rove says gay marriage won't be the issue in '08 that it was in '04

August 14, 2008 | 10:05 am

For many voters, it’s an article of faith that political consultant Karl Rove orchestrated the 2004 ballot fight over same-sex marriage to help push conservatives to the polls. In the process, the theory goes, those voters helped George W. Bush win reelection.

Rove takes a somewhat different view. He says backers of same-sex marriage started the fight by filing suits and winning a Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts.

Whatever his role was four years ago, Rove predicted in an interview that the issue would be less important in 2008. "It has a lower profile, but it will be an issue in people’s minds," Rove said. "The bigger issues will be the economy, terrorism, healthcare, energy."Samesex_marriage_impact_on_the_elec

This November, three states -- Arizona, California and Florida -- will vote on the issue. Whether it will have an effect on the presidential contest remains to be seen.

Arizona almost certainly will vote for its favorite son, John McCain. California is likely solid for Barack Obama. Florida is one state viewed as a swing state.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, both of whom are backing McCain, have distanced themselves from the propositions (it's Proposition 8 on California's Nov. 4 ballot), saying there are more important issues to consider.

Rove said that’s true -- to a point. He said the question could weigh in the minds of some people in what he called the "complicated algorithms" that determine how they vote. "Values always play a role in a campaign," he said.

There is disagreement over whether same-sex marriage -- or any divisive issue -- draws voters to the polls in a presidential election year. Most experts agree that voters turn out to vote for president, not a state ballot measure.

But there is some evidence that the same-sex marriage measure helped in the swing state of Ohio, one of 11 states in the 2004 general election where voters cast ballots on definition-of-marriage measures. Bush sealed his reelection by winning narrowly in Ohio over John Kerry.

As happened in 2004, Rove noted, the 2008 candidates have staked out their positions. McCain, like Bush, supports the ballot measures. Obama, like Kerry, opposes the measures, but says he opposes same-sex marriage.

-- Dan Morain

Photo credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press