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Political fallout from birth control fight: A glimmer of good news for Obama?

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

(Read caption) President Barack Obama pauses while announcing the revamp of his contraception policy requiring religious institutions to fully pay for birth control, Friday, Feb. 10, 2012, in the White House press room.

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President Obama may have hoped to dispel the political firestorm raining down on him over contraception and religion with the new White House approach announced Friday. But that never was going to happen.

Anything that angers social and religious conservatives while annoying a significant portion of his own base does not soon fade, especially in a presidential re-election year.

Still, there may be some beneficial political fallout for Obama as Republican presidential hopefuls Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich try to outdo each other on this hot-button issue, which they short-hand as the incumbent president’s “war on religion,” leaving Mitt Romney to explain his moderate position on birth control (and even abortion) back when he was Massachusetts governor.

Anything that keeps Republicans fighting, that prolongs the GOP’s nominating process, works to Obama’s benefit.

Then, there’s the divide between the Roman Catholic hierarchy and most Catholics on birth control, back in the spotlight as the result of the controversy, indicating that Obama may be able to keep a good portion of the 54 percent of Catholics whose vote he won in 2008. More on that in a minute.

But for now, as Jonathan Allen at Politico put it, “The battle over contraceptive coverage at religiously affiliated institutions has bound together Republicans of all stripes because it hits core GOP themes: religious liberty, government intrusion, and reproduction politics.”

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