GAY MARRIAGE HEADCOUNT….Over at OxBlog, Josh Chafetz is making use of the distributed nature of the blogosphere to try and figure out how much support a gay marriage amendment would have in the Senate. So far (as of 8:00 PM here on the west coast) he’s collected data on 56 senators and it looks like Republicans are in favor 27-5 while Democrats are opposed 22-1 (plus one independent opposed).

Now, there’s no telling how these votes might change once the arm twisting starts, but it sure looks like an amendment has practically no chance of passing Congress, let alone getting approval from the states. In other words, like the impeachment of Bill Clinton, which was also a foregone conclusion before the voting even started, it’s just political theater, not a serious attempt at legislation.

It’s a funny bit of calculation, too. Obviously Karl Rove has read the tea leaves and thinks this is a good issue to energize Bush’s Christian conservative base, but at the same time presidents need to look like winners and being on the losing end of an important vote shortly before the election is hardly the way to do that. All in all, the more I think about this the more I think that there are some pretty serious political downsides here for Bush:

  • It turns off centrist voters.

  • It takes the focus off national security, Bush’s signature issue.

  • It’s likely to make look Bush look weak since he’ll almost certainly be on the losing end of a vote on an issue he’s staked some personal mojo on.

  • It energizes gays, at least a few of whom were likely to give him the benefit of the doubt before this (see Sullivan, Andrew). How many gays are going to vote for Bush now? And how many are going to work hard to defeat him even if they were relatively apathetic before?

I’m no Karl Rove or James Carville, but put all this together and I wonder if the White House has made a serious political miscalculation here? I’m starting to think maybe so.