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BARNES: In particular, gays in the military for one. We know Barack Obama is for allowing gays in the military, and Bill Clinton tried to do, but backed off. This is not a popular issue. Gay marriage is another one. These are both issues that I think McCain’s going to have to use. You can’t ignore the right. If he does, he’ll lose.
* A debate, often vitriolic, within the opposing party, giving the public a perception of disarray.
* The defection of supporters of the opposing party's minority faction to the other party (or independent parties) if they lose the debate.
* The legitimising of sentiment which, while perhaps popularly held, is usually considered inappropriate or politically incorrect; criticisms from the opposition then make it appear beholden to special interests or fringe ideology.
* In an extreme case, a wedge issue might contribute to the actual fracture of the opposing party as another party spins off, taking voters with it.
Moreover, the homosexual community makes up roughly 10% of the US population at best, some of whom are conservatives, so for McCain to support the wishes of the majority relative to these two issues wouldn't be a bad choice.