When George W. Bush won Florida in 2000, he won the presidency. Four years later, the White House came down to Ohio. Ohio 2004 seemed a rerun of Florida 2000: small margins, voting machine questions, a high profile Republican secretary of state, and whoever prevailed in Ohio would be President of the United State: the Electoral College majority hung in the balance. Any challenge in the Buckeye State whimpered out as Bush had a small but clear majority with 50.8 percent of the vote.

The seeds of Bush's Ohio victory were sewn a year prior in Massachusetts.

In November 2003, four judges on the seven-person Massachusetts Supreme Court, overturned a state law to establish America's only state permitting gay marriage. In response, 11 states placed defense of marriage measures on their ballots the following year. They all passed by wide margins.

Mississippi passed with 86 percent an amendment to the state constitution stating that marriage is between one man and one woman. Madison County carried the amendment with 84.8 percent.

In Ohio, Bush beat Senator John Kerry by fewer than 150,000 votes in an election where 5.7 million voters went to the polls and 3.3 million voted to uphold traditional marriage. The traditional marriage vote did not all go to Bush. Traditional marriage enjoys broad support in both parties and many who voted against gay marriage in Ohio voted for Kerry. But the issue promoted conservative voter turnout which, if it did make the difference in the outcome in the state, it also decided the outcome of the race for President.

If four judges in Massachusetts could provide the boost needed by Bush to win a second term in 2004, could four judges in California do the same for John McCain in 2008?

In 2000, 61 percent of California voters approved a traditional marriage ballot initiative: Proposition 22. Twice since then the state legislature sought to overturn that measure and both times Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed those efforts. Now the California Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision, with the equivalent of a judicial super veto, declared that marriage in the state must be allowed for same-sex couples.

Already, conservatives have filed a provision with more than a million signatures to amend the California Constitution to make marriage only between one man and one woman for the California November ballot. Polls show a majority of Californians support the amendment.

Traditional marriage is not a partisan issue. In 1996, the Republican Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton. The law denied federal recognition of "same-sex marriage" and authorized states to refuse recognition of a "same-sex" marriage from another state.

McCain opposes gay marriage, supports the Defense of Marriage Act, but opposes a Federal Marriage Amendment on federalism grounds: he believes it should be a state decision. Barak Obama supports gay unions, opposes the Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Marriage Amendment, but says he personally opposes gay marriage on religious grounds.

With a marriage protection amendment on the ballot, could John McCain win California in 2008? A California victory would assure the Republican of winning the presidency.

Except for Lyndon Johnson's landslide in 1964, California was a solid Republican state from Eisenhower's first campaign in 1952, until Bill Clinton took it 1992. For McCain to win California this year, Republicans would need a conservative surge in turn out, some independent and Democratic crossover, and a strong showing among Hispanic voters.

A traditional marriage amendment could produce the conservative surge. McCain's maverick style and perceived moderation could provide the cross-party appeal that some Western voters need to support the Arizona Senator. Finally, McCain's polling shows him in reach of surpassing the record 44 percent of the Hispanic vote that Bush carried in 2004. Catholic Hispanics trend against gay marriage and may make the difference for McCain in California.

Arizona and Florida also are considering defense of marriage provisions on the 2008 ballot. If McCain can mobilize the conservatives and sway the Hispanics, he will cement Florida, take New Mexico out of contention, and make a play in California. (Obama would need someone like Governor Bill Richardson on the ticket to play defense.)

Republicans haven't carried California in a Presidential election since George H.W. Bush whipped Michael Dukakis 20 years ago. McCain's Western base and Hispanic appeal alone can't deliver California, especially facing Obama's rock-star appeal and fundraising prowess. But throw a conservative mobilizing issue like the defense of marriage into the mix, and McCain might be able to squeak out a win.

Will Obama be another Dukakis or is McCain just California dreaming? If McCain does carry California, his campaign should send thank you cards to four judges in California and four judges in Massachusetts.

Brian Perry of Jackson, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs and communications group. He can be reached at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms online.