YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – On the upper eastern edge of Ohio lies a valley built on the sweat of the working class, where steel mills sit mostly shuttered but a once-struggling Chevy plant endures. It is a place filled with union halls and blue-collar families for whom the auto bailout meant survival, delivered by a president many here see as their savior.
The Mahoning Valley is, without question, Barack Obama country. And native Andre Allie is very much a Barack Obama man: An African-American who "went with history" by voting for him in 2008. A retired auto worker who made air-bag parts. A lifelong Democrat and union member whose wife, brothers, aunt, cousins are all Democrats and union folks, too.
But Allie is also a deeply religious man, an elder deacon at his Baptist church who quotes from the Bible with ease. And he fervently opposes what the president last week decided to publicly support. "It's wrong. Period. It's just wrong," Allie, 54, says of the latest issue to push to the front of the presidential campaign.
Obama's declaration in support of gay marriage was undoubtedly a milestone in American politics and culture. But six months from an election that will decide whether the president keeps his job, a question hovers over the moment: Was it, somehow, a game-changer?
In three very different regions of a state where the election could be won or lost, voters themselves have been considering that. And their reflections reveal something far more pragmatic than an electorate that shifts its views because of the headline of the day, no matter how historic.
Allie is but one example, a voter as adamant in his opposition to same-sex marriage as he is in his support — still — of Obama. In his words: "The world is bigger than gay marriage."
And yet something has sprung from the dialogue the president's words compelled. It may be far more subtle than a changed mind or a changed vote, but it is there all the same.