Al Cardenas, an influential conservative leader and chairman of the American Conservative Union, predicted Sunday that President Obama's embrace of same-sex marriage will give social conservatives the one thing they were lacking in their support of Republican Mitt Romney: passion.
Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, Cardenas said they are now ready to rally behind Romney because of his opposition to gay marriage rights.
Social conservatives, he said, were always going to be there for Romney. "The question was to what degree of passion," he said, noting that most conservatives always viewed marriage as a moral or religious question. "But we never viewed it through a political lens before... This puts it in a political context. And this is like the religious arguments of the "˜80s. You're going to have a revival of social conservatives like you haven't seen in 20 years in this race."
Cardenas said this may not be what Republican leaders want, suggesting they would prefer to talk about jobs and the economy. But, he said, "I believe social conservatives are going to consider this a need to rally support on."
Another guest on the show, California's Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who performed gay marriages when he was mayor of San Francisco, praised the president for his "courage" in changing positions, though he said he did not know what the political impact will be.
Newsom said he thinks it will be dramatically different than 2004 when Republicans were able to rally support by talking about gay marriage. "I don't know that there is another issue that has moved this fast in such a short period of time," he said. "In the last 24 months, this has moved 10 points. So it is a much safer time than 2004."
Newsom acknowledged, though, that the champions of traditional marriage have triumphed every time a state has put the issue on the ballot. "That's always the case," he said. "When you subject the rights of a minority to the whims of the majority, every single time the minority loses."
Also on the show, GOP National Chairman Reince Priebus said he agrees with Romney that there should be a constitutional amendment to enshrine traditional marriage as the only constitutionally accepted option. And he praised Romney as "a gracious, caring person" who will make sure that gays are treated with "dignity and respect."