In reality, says McTighe, voters that fit that mold might actually be much more persuadable, but without expanding the model, pro-gay marriage campaigners were missing a fairly large pool of potential yes votes.
A shifting fundraising environment
Opponents of gay marriage, led by California-based strategist Frank Schubert, aren’t convinced they were outmaneuvered in 2012. What really changed between 2008 and this past cycle, they argue, was the fundraising dynamic.
“I think the strategy was fine,” says Schubert, who heads Mission Public Affairs and serves as the lead political strategist for the National Organization for Marriage. “It certainly had prevailed earlier in the year in North Carolina, it had prevailed in Maine in 2009, and it had prevailed in California in 2008, not to mention Arizona and Florida, as well.”
Since California’s Proposition 8, Schubert has been the driving strategic force behind anti-gay marriage campaigns in a number of states. Last year, he and his firm worked in all four states where marriage amendments were on the ballot.
“The problem with the strategy was in execution,” says Schubert. “It really was a resource issue. We were outspent about three-and-a-half to one, sometimes almost six-to-one, depending on the state. That made it very difficult in these very, very liberal, Democratic states that we were fighting in.”
According to Schubert, the dip in grassroots funding to fight same-sex marriage initiatives, along with a lack of financial support from the Mormon Church, were the primary reasons gay marriage advocates were able to so heavily outspend opponents during the 2012 cycle.
Maryland’s anti-gay marriage campaign raised less than half of what gay marriage advocates did in the state, and in Washington state opponents only managed to raise some $2.9 million to compete with the more than $12 million raised by gay marriage proponents. The numbers were just as lopsided in Minnesota.
On the strategy front, Schubert rejects the idea that his side has essentially been running the same campaign for several cycles now, but admits the core of the message isn’t likely to change. The driving force will still be trying to convince voters of the essential importance of marriage to society, particularly when it comes to raising children.
“You do see similar elements just as you see similar elements from their side in all four of their campaigns last November,” Schubert says. “But the messaging was different. It was all tailored to the individual state. The messengers were different. The organization of the campaigns themselves was different … But there are two ideas of marriage on the table here that are not reconcilable.”
Initiatives could potentially be on the 2014 ballot in several states, including Oregon, New Mexico and Indiana. In other places, lawmakers are grappling with the issue at the legislative level. Schubert says he intends to be active in every state where the issue is on the table next cycle, and expects the Supreme Court’s recent rulings to inject some new energy into anti-gay marriage efforts.
“I’ve been in this business a long time,” he says. “I’m very much aware that when you lose, people kick you. And so, people are having fun kicking me, and that’s fine. They can kick all they want.”