The latest cover of Newsweek magazine has heated up the U.S. presidential campaign with its gutsy depiction of recently confirmed gay-marriage supporter Barack Obama.

The Newsweek cover featured a rainbow halo poised above Obama's head and the words "The First Gay President."

The cover comes after President Obama openly declared his support for same-sex couples to marry.

It's a strong message, and one that could cost the president votes in America's more Conservative states. But the move was well played, according to Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

"The Obama campaign couldn't have asked for a better cover from Newsweek if they had produced it themselves," Farnsworth said on CTV News Channel Monday.

Farnsworth credited Obama for using the biblical message of tolerance as part of his campaign strategy against the Republicans.

"The argument the Obama campaign is making is really an argument that is very focused on Christianity, where you look at the issue of how one treats one's neighbour," Farnsworth said, calling the message track "an important departure for the Democrats."

In the past, discussions about religion on America's campaign trail have focused primarily on Evangelical Christians and Conservatives. But Obama's campaign strategists have taken that discussion down a new path with his support of gay marriage, casting it as the position of a president acting in accordance with his Christian beliefs.

"That would be very useful in a re-election campaign," said Farnsworth.

According to Canadian political analyst Joan Crockatt, Obama's coming out in favour of same-sex marriage shows he's in touch with Americans' changing beliefs.

"He was right on the cusp. Politically it was a smart move," Crockatt said on CTV News Channel's Straight Talk.

In a new Gallup poll published by USA Today, 51 per cent of Americans agree with President Obama's stance that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry legally.

Sixty per cent also said that the president's shift in position will have no bearing on how they cast their votes in November's elections.

"The opinion is pretty close to 50–50, with a little bit of a tip of the scale in favour of gay marriage," said Farnsworth.

But the real disparity on the subject is found among two groups, he said. One is Christian Conservatives, who have publicly denounced same-sex marriage. The other group is young Americans, the majority of whom now support the right of same-sex couples to marry.

That approval from young voters may prove advantageous to the Obama campaign.

"One of the things Obama really needs to do in order to win his re-election is make young people excited," said Farnsworth.

In 2008, young America's enthusiasm for Obama played a crucial role in his winning the keys to the Oval Office. That flush of excitement faded during Obama's first term in the White House, according to Farnsworth.

With America's youth disenchanted by the current administration's handling of issues on Wall Street, for example, the social issue of marriage offers a new way for Obama to connect.

"The gay-marriage controversy offers up Obama the chance to really excite young people…to turn out in Obama's favour," said Farnsworth.

It's too soon to tell, however, whether Obama's stance on same-sex marriage may cost him in more conservative states such as Ohio, Virginia or North Carolina.