That didn’t take long. Just over a week since President Obama flip-flopped to endorse gay marriage, a significant split among Democrats has opened and threatens to become Grand Canyon-wide in moderate and conservative states where congressional candidates fear the issue will sink their election chances.
On the heels of a new North Carolina poll showing Mitt Romney surging ahead of President Obama in the week since the state overwhelmingly rejected gay marriage, House Democratic candidates in South Dakota this week split over the issue in a nasty spat.
Matt Varilek, one of two House candidates, came out against the president’s position, sparking an outcry from supporters including Steven Hildebrand, an Obama organizer who ran the Senate campaigns of former Sen. Tom Dashle and Sen. Tim Johnson, the Democrat who mentored Varilek.
Varilek told the Mitchell, S.D., Daily Republic that he is against gay marriage, but for same-sex civil unions, just like Obama before he changed his mind. The paper then asked what Hildebrand thought and he said, “I was angry with his position and that I could not help him anymore.”
That could be damaging to Varilek who has the Democratic establishment and money against him in a bid against pro-gay marriage Democrat Jeff Barth. They faceoff in a June 5 primary. Barth backs the president’s view on gay marriage.
The issue is helping Obama raise money in liberal circles, but the South Dakota and North Carolina fight shows that it is also energizing conservatives and threatening establishment Democrats in red states.