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Politics Wrap: From Gay Marriage To Romney's Speech


And NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins us now. Hi, Mara.


MARTIN: So, as we just heard, Mitt Romney in his speech stressed the importance of Christian values in his address without mentioning his own Mormon faith in this address at the Liberty University speech. What do you make of that?

LIASSON: It was certainly intentional. He did mention it indirectly. It was something that everybody there was aware of. When he talked about people of different faiths, like yours and mine, he acknowledged that many Christians, especially evangelicals, don't consider Mormons to be Christians. But he said that we have common values and a common world view, including the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. I think that the Romney campaign has decided that it is not necessary this year, like he did four years ago, to give a special speech about his faith. The Mormon faith matters less and less for voters as years go on. Yes, it's still an issue for some evangelicals but it's hard to imagine many of them voting for Barack Obama because of that.

MARTIN: Let's talk a little more about the same-sex marriage issue. He only referenced this once, and briefly. Why not say more, considering his audience? I mean, this kind of seems like a natural place for him to draw a distinct contrast between himself and the president.

LIASSON: I think the Romney campaign feels that the contrast has been drawn. He doesn't have to sound like Rick Santorum. They feel that evangelical voters are rallying behind him. They feel that the president is the biggest motivator for that, especially now, as you said, that the president has come out for same-sex marriage. The campaign and many evangelical leaders back this up. They say that's all the motivation that evangelical voters will need to rally behind Romney. But, you know, the interesting thing to me about Romney's comments on same-sex marriage since the president made his announcement is how muted they've been. You know, he's being very careful not to alienate swing voters, for whom this is not an important issue. And for many of them, they're absolutely fine with gay marriage. So, that, to me, has been the most interesting thing about Romney's response. He hasn't grabbed this and run with this as something to beat the president over the head with.

MARTIN: What about President Obama? As we mentioned, he made this personal pronouncement on ABC News this past week. What's the political cost-benefit analysis for him on this issue?

LIASSON: Well, you know, it's hard to know exactly which candidate this is going to help more. I think it is a motivator for both candidates' bases. We don't have a lot of polling on this. We do have a new Gallup Poll that say six in ten Americans say President Obama's embrace of gay marriage will have no impact on their vote. We know still that means 40 percent of Americans say that it will. It's hard to know how many of those 40 percent wouldn't have voted for the president anyway. What we do know is that people who are against gay marriage are generally more energized by the issue than people who accept it. And that means that the president could have some trouble in states, key battleground states, like North Carolina or Iowa or Colorado, where this issue could help Mitt Romney.

MARTIN: So, there was another provocative headline this past week, Mara. The Washington Post reported that Mitt Romney bullied a fellow student when he was in high school. Mitt Romney immediately apologized. Could this impact his candidacy in any real way?

I think it could. I think campaign was sufficiently worried about it, that they did put him out immediately to say that while he didn't remember this incident, he did some things when he was younger that he wasn't proud of, and certainly, he would apologize for this. But this is the kind of thing that people can relate to. The story is that Mitt Romney, while in high school, led a group of boys to hold down a fellow student who had long bleached blonde hair, and they cut his hair while he was screaming and crying for help. And five students said that they remembered this incident, they were disturbed by it to this day, and it's the kind of thing that now we're having a national conversation about bullying. This fits right into that. It also could reinforce the negative stereotype of Romney's character as rich, entitled, mean. This is something that the Romney campaign was sufficiently worried about, that they started rounding other classmates of Romney's to see if they would go public to talk about Romney's upstanding character.

NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thanks, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.