ROMNEY'S COLD AND HEARTLESS CONDUCT PROVIDES A SHARP CONTRAST

The flip side of this, the cold dehumanizing of gays and lesbians, is almost perfectly embodied in Mitt Romney.

Romney, who has made opposition to gay marriage a defining position since 2003, has seemed uncomfortable talking about it since Obama's ABC interview. His standard explanations for his position display no sense of warmth toward those who are affected — including the thousands of committed families in his home state of Massachusetts.

On top of that, his response to stories of his apparent high-school bullying of gay classmates was strikingly devoid of compassion. All of this has led to some reporting of Romney's gubernatorial history on gay-rights issues, which includes cutting anti-bullying programs and forcing out openly gay people in his administration.

The contrast of Romney's callous, dehumanizing rhetoric against Obama's humane, compassionate words — and the same contrast between Republicans and Democrats generally — is comparable to the partisan difference in rhetoric on immigration.

With gay rights, as with immigration, it is not just the policies but the meanness of the rhetoric that may be locking in groups of voters for years to come.

With immigration, Romney and his fellow Republicans have alienated not just the undocumented immigrants, but the entire Hispanic-American population. The same may be happening with family and friends of the LGBT community — an increasingly large, and proud, demographic.

To read the Talking Politics blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached at bernstein@phx.com. Follow him on Twitter @dbernstein.

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