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Cornyn: Obama trying to "divide the country" with same-sex marriage support

How will Obama same-sex marriage word play politically?
A gay man holds the gay and lesbian flag with the US flag during a demonstration in West Hollywood, California, May 15, 2008, after the decision by the California Supreme Court to effectively greenlight same-sex marriage. Getty Images

(CBS News) A leading Republican said on Sunday that President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage last week to divide the country and distract from his record.

"President Obama brought this issue up because he wants to - he can't run on his record," Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said on CNN's "State of the Union." "He's trying to raise divisive issues up to solidify his base and to divide the country, and that isn't what we should be focusing on now. We should be focusing on jobs and the economy."

When asked whether Mr. Obama's GOP opponent Mitt Romney should avoid the topic of same-sex marriage, Cornyn said, "I think we ought to talk about what the American people want, and that is jobs and get the economy on track."

Other conservatives have said that if Mr. Obama's announcement was politically motivated, it was a foolish move.

"I don't think the president did a political calculus to do this because if he did, he needs to go back to the calculator because it's a bad formula," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Perkins told host Bob Schieffer, "I think that Barack Obama has helped fit that missing piece of intensity that Mitt Romney is going to need."

Others, like Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick on "Face the Nation," said that Mr. Obama will benefit from appearing like a principled leader.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said on CNN that the president's announcement wasn't politically motivated and that it's unlikely to cost him votes. "I'm not sure the evangelicals were going to lean toward President Obama anyway," he said.

On ABC's "This Week," openly gay Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts pointed out that the president had already supported gay rights when it came to matters like repealing the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.

"I can't think there are many people who said 'OK, I'm going to vote for Obama even though he's said the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and he's said that gay people can serve in the military - but if he says marriage, that goes too far,'" Frank said. "I literally don't think anybody's vote was changed."

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