E. J. Dionne has a possible explanation for Dick Cheney’s off-message comments about same-sex relationships:
… social conservatives were so outraged by Cheney’s statement that on Wednesday they hardened the platform to be even more anti-gay, insisting not only on the amendment but that same-sex couples not receive the legal benefits set aside for married couples. The platform writers urged that federal courts be stripped of any authority to overturn state laws banning gay marriage.
Please forgive me for a certain skepticism. Cheney’s comments made the front pages, burying the news of the hard-line platform. In light of the Republicans’ strategy at their convention next week — to put up one moderate speaker after another by way of pretending that their party is far less right-wing than it is — Cheney’s comments would seem to be perfectly on message. Distracting attention from this administration’s commitments to the right is essential to Bush, who has been performing rather badly among independents and moderates in the polls.
… As Steve Gunderson, a former Republican congressman from Wisconsin who is gay, says: “When you personalize these things and talk from the heart, you’re 10 times more powerful because the heart always trumps ideology.”
Moreover, even if Cheney’s statement was primarily a politically shrewd tilt toward the center, the vice president thereby demonstrated that the gay marriage issue is not the sure-fire winner in this election that many social conservatives think it is. Gunderson is happy with Cheney’s statement, no matter what the motivation was: “I’m trying to find out if this is from the heart, which I commend, or if it is strategic, which I also commend.”