Obama engages Romney in an awkward debate on gay rights, via George Pataki

George Pataki. (Azi Paybarah, via flickr)
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After former governor George Pataki criticized President Obama for not being clear about his position on gay marriage this morning, the Obama campaign sent out an email claiming the president "has done more to advance gay rights than any other president."

“While he was busy campaigning at an auto supplier that would have ceased to exist if he were President and a community college for which he would cut funding, Mitt Romney deployed Governor Pataki today to call for consistency on gay rights," wrote Ben LaBolt, the campaign's national press secretary, in a statement. "Governor Pataki must not be familiar with either the President’s record or Governor Romney’s. The President has done more to advance gay rights than any other president – from securing hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights for gay partners, to repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, to advancing equal rights and benefits for gays and lesbians."

Obama's attempt to run on his record of support for gay causes was complicated, again, on Sunday when Vice President Joe Biden appeared to offer an enthusiastic personal endorsement of same-sex marriage. Those comments re-opened a whole host of questions about where exactly the president stands on the issue, after Obama had been content to describe his position as, simply, "evolving."

On the call this morning, Pataki used the issue to play into greater fears about Obama's second term, comparing his evolution on the issue to his much-remarked live-mic comment to former Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev that he would have more "flexibility" after the election.

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But it's not entirely clear whether the Romney campaign would want to make same-sex marriage an issue, given that Romney's own positions have shifted since he first ran for the Senate in 1994, which LaBolt took the opportunity to highlight in his statement.

"Governor Romney went from promising to be to the left of Ted Kennedy on gay rights to working to enshrine discrimination into the Constitution by passing a federal marriage amendment, personally funding efforts to roll back equal rights for gays and lesbians in states, and making clear he would have kept Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in place," LaBolt said. "The country has moved forward since 1994, when Governor Romney was supposedly an advocate on these issues, yet Governor Romney has moved backwards."

The Pataki call was supposed to be on the topic of Obama's economic record, and who deserved credit for progress upstate.