WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s campaign moved quickly Thursday to capitalize on his newly announced support for gay marriage, releasing an Internet video that calls his Republican challenger backward on the highly divisive social issue.
Obama broke from his long-claimed indecision on the issue to express outright support for the right of homosexual couples to marry, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to say so publicly. He spoke during an ABC television interview Wednesday after days of growing pressure that started when his own vice president declared his support for gay marriage over the weekend.
On Thursday morning, Obama’s campaign released an Internet video titled “Mitt Romney: Backwards on Equality.”
WATCH ‘DAILY RUNDOWN’ COVERAGE OF ROMNEY ON GAY MARRIAGE:
It opens with Obama saying same-sex couples should have the right to marry, then shows a clip of Romney saying Wednesday that he opposes gay marriage and favors rolling back some rights for same-sex couples.
The video also seeks to portray Romney as out of touch with the majority of Americans, saying even former Republican President George W. Bush supported civil unions, a step short of marriage.
Obama aides hope the president’s support of gay marriage will energize Democrats, particularly younger voters, though they acknowledge the issue could hurt him with socially conservative independent voters.
Obama’s changed stand on gay marriage will, however, find a welcome audience Thursday night in Hollywood. He will speak to the gala event of the political season — a sold-out, record-setting fundraiser at the home of movie star George Clooney.
The event is a blockbuster confluence of high celebrity, big money and committed activism. Hollywood is home to some of the most high-profile backers of gay marriage, and the dinner is expected to raise nearly $15 million —an unprecedented amount for a single event. In a single evening, the Obama camp and the Democratic Party will collect more than Romney has amassed in his best single month of fundraising.
Obama will also hold fundraisers earlier in the day in Seattle, where he was expected to collect at least $3 million toward his re-election effort.
Obama’s support of gay marriage will find huge support in yet another fundraiser Monday in New York sponsored by gay and Latino Obama supporters.
“I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient,” Obama said in Wednesday’s interview. But he added that now, “it is important for me personally to go ahead and affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
He conceded that Vice President Joe Biden forced his hand on the issue Sunday by saying in a nationally televised interview that he was “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage, but Obama said, “All’s well that ends well.”
Obama said he had planned to announce his support for gay marriage before the Democratic Party’s convention in early September, and he acknowledged he would have preferred to have “done this in my own way, on my own terms without, I think, there being a lot of notice” beforehand.
Obama’s support for gay marriage is a huge symbolic step, but it does nothing to change the legal status for gays who wish to wed in states where laws forbid such marriages. Obama emphasized that he still believes the issue should be decided on a state-by-state basis.
A new Associated Press-GfK poll, meanwhile, showed Obama’s popularity among women, minorities and independents gave him an early edge over Romney. The poll was conducted before Obama’s comments Wednesday.
The nationwide poll found half of registered voters say they would back Obama in November, while 42 percent favor Romney. About a quarter of voters indicated they are persuadable, meaning they are undecided or could change their minds before Election Day.
With the struggling American economy the primary concern of voters, the poll found the public divided over whether Obama or Romney would do a better job on the issue. Forty-six percent prefer Obama, 44 percent prefer Romney.
The Democratic president also earned strong marks on empathy, sincerity, likeability and social issues. Half of adults say Obama is the stronger leader, while 39 percent choose Romney. Obama is more trusted to handle taxes and social issues, and to protect the country.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who has changed his stance on some important issues over the past 18 years, may need to strengthen his image on questions of credibility and sincerity. More than half of adults say Obama is the one who more often says what he believes, while 31 percent choose Romney on that measure.
Obama’s biggest advantages are among women and minorities. His biggest problem is with whites who lack college degrees.
Female voters favor the president by 54 percent to 39 percent. Men are evenly split, with 46 percent for each candidate. That’s largely in line with the 2008 “gender gap” that helped Obama win the White House.
Romney draws the backing of half of all white voters, while Obama gets 43 percent. The president continues to draw strong support from black voters; 90 percent favor him; only 5 percent back Romney.
The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted May 3-7, by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved phone interviews with 1,004 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.