Think Progress picked up over the weekend that in his initial response to Obama's gay-marriage announcement, Mitt Romney said certain rights for gay rights would remain on the table as far as he was concerned, including adoption rights. But now!:
But by Friday afternoon, he was already backing away from that position, suggesting that he merely “acknowledges” that many states offer same-sex adoption:
ROMNEY: Actually, I think all states but one allow gay adoption. So that’s a position which has been decided by most of the state legislatures, including the one in my state some time ago. So I simply acknowledge the fact that gay adoption is legal in all states but one.
There's not really a policy position in here, but the dog whistle is a-blowin full steam. Couple this with the Falwell Factory commencement address, and we see signs that this might be a bigger issue this fall than some pundits are thinking (the early c.w. is: we'll have a few culture war pangs but we'll quickly return to the economy).
Romney is on record now as opposing civil unions, which vast majorities support, and supporting a federal constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage (I haven't seen polls on this, but people are very skittish about such amendments, usually--recall that the anti-flag burning one never even passed).
The math, as it were, is very simple: If he keeps to those two positions, then he, not Obama, is very clearly the one with the extreme position on this issue; he will be playing to the religious right, trying to goose turnout, using this as a wege issue. If he "moderates" those positions, dog-whistles to the center about how maybe civil unions are okay, we'll avoid a kulturkampf and I would say that on balance he'd pick up more votes in the middle than he'd lost on the fringe. But on the other hand, if he does that, he's a flip-flopper. He's toast.
So my judgment would be that he won't change his positions, and that while the economy will remain issue number one, this will be a pretty big deal until Election Day. And I believe, because of the extremeness of Romney's two positions (civil unions and amendment), Obama can eke out a win on this issue. Middle-of-the-road people may not be ready to watch Jack and Jeff smooch each other at the altar, but neither do they want to think of themselves as intolerant.
Final note: This whole business now makes the question of Romney's veep choice much more interesting. Will he be more inclined now to choose a culture warrior? What good does Rob Portman do the anti same-sexers? I bet the Romney campaign's polls will show, as the McCain campaign's did, that they'll benefit from playing to cultural right. It will then be up to him to find someone who a) is that person and b) knows the difference between North and South Korea. The temptation will be great. I'd say Marco Rubio's odds increased over the weekend.