Can McCain Crack the Gay Vote?

Back in February while discussing the housing market with a realtor active in the Los Angeles gay community, the conversation turned to politics. I learned that this friend who had helped raise money for Hillary Clinton's White House bid intended to support John McCain should his candidate lose the Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama.

At the time, I thought little of this exchange, assuming my friend's opposition to his party's then-frontrunner was an aberration, just one gay man who didn't trust the junior senator from Illinois. But, about a month later, in an instant message conversation, a gay friend from New York who usually votes Democratic and then supported his own junior senator's presidential campaign suggested he might vote for the Republican nominee this fall should Obama win the Democratic nomination.

He wouldn't be the last. In the next month, I would talk to and overhear additional gay Democrats inclined to support John McCain in a fall match against Barack Obama. After an extended conversation with one such Democrat, I blogged on the topic, observing:

There seems to be a common theme among these Democrats (and at least one Democrat-leaning independent). They just don't trust their party's presidential frontrunner. One man said he lacked experience, another was concerned about his ties to shady characters. They didn't think there was much substance behind his sizzle.

Soon thereafter, I talked with friends across the country who were noticing a similar trend, a significant minority of Hillary-supporting gay Democrats intending to vote Republican this fall in the presidential contest. Andrew Belonsky, editor of the gay blog Queerty (no McCain supporters they), observed this phenomenon in Philadelphia, writing in May, "A gay man mentioned that he and many of his friends -- all of whom support Hillary Clinton -- plan on voting for John McCain if Barack Obama gets the Democratic nomination."

In 2004, the gay media all but ignored gay Republicans intending to vote for President Bush. They assumed the number would be small because Log Cabin Republicans (the national gay and lesbian GOP group) had failed to endorse the GOP nominee. So, all were surprised when Bush got 23% of the gay vote that year. It was a story the media missed. When I did a follow-up post predicting McCain could substantially improve Bush's achievement and get as much as 40% of the gay vote, even more such Democrats came out of the woodwork. One reader wrote:

I'm gay, live in San Francisco, voted and donated money to Hillary Clinton. I've never voted for a Republican for president -- though I did vote for Arnold in 2006. No way in hell am I voting for Obama, and McCain is 95% of the way towards winning my vote. As long as he doesn't pick an uber-social conservative [running mate], I'm in.

With Obama having since secured the Democratic nomination, I decided to follow up with my Democratic friends and readers who had supported Hillary in the primaries and were supporting McCain in the general election.