"This can be a real turnoff for the president . If this is all the president can talk about and can't talk about what he's doing to stop the hemorrhaging of jobs, the public will punish him at the polls," Jacques said.
On Thursday, however, Kerry looked to be the candidate with the most immediate problem.
Kerry has said he supports legal protections for same-sex couples but opposes the right of gays to marry. Still, reporters asked Kerry so many questions about gay marriage after a rally in Portland, Maine, that the candidate became impatient, insisting that he'd already given a full accounting of his beliefs.
"Look, I support equal rights and the right of people to have civil union, equal partnership rights," Kerry said. "I don't support marriage. I never have. That's my position."
Asked about endorsing a constitutional ban on gay marriage, Kerry said he "would have to see what language there is."
Queried on why he was one of only 14 senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, Kerry said: "I don't approve of the gay-bashing in the United States Senate, which is what it was then. There was no relevant issue in the country. It had nothing to do with any position taken by any state whatsoever."
Vice President Dick Cheney, who has an openly gay daughter, said during the 2000 campaign that the question of allowing or banning gay marriage was "not a slam-dunk" and possibly best left to the states.
"The fact of the matter is that matter is regulated by the states," Cheney said at the time. "I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions, and that's appropriate. I don't think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area.''
Last month, however, Cheney told the Denver Post that he would support Bush if the president made a push to ban same-sex marriage.
Times staff writer Maria L. La Ganga contributed to this report from Portland, Maine.