Will 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Be A Midterm Elections Issue?

'If the Republicans do take over either branch, it's dead,' one young Democrat says of a potential 'don't ask' repeal.

It's a mantra you've heard from both Democrats and Republicans relentlessly in the lead-up to Tuesday's critical midterm elections: It's all about jobs.

And while the economy is likely the issue foremost on everyone's minds, there are certainly many young, LGBT voters who will tell you that the Obama administration's failure to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy will also be on their minds when they cast their votes on Tuesday.

Just weeks after the Department of Justice requested a stay on a California judge's ruling that would have effectively ended the 17-year-old policy that bars gays and lesbians from serving openly, Tuesday's vote could turn out to be a referendum of sorts on the Obama administration's handling of the issue, according to political experts.

"In terms of this election, I don't think that a whole lot is going to happen in terms of the political branches, no matter which party takes over. I think it's being fought in the courts," said Republican Brian Morgenstern, 28, who admitted to having a more liberal view on DADT than many in his party. Morgenstern — a former teenage congressional page who has interned with a Congressman and worked for the congressional committee and John McCain's 2008 presidential bid — has been consulting for a number of New York Republican campaigns this year.

The contrast on the issue between the parties could not be starker, said Democrat Corey Johnson, also 28, who noted that his party's House members helped pass legislation repealing DADT as Dems in the Senate attempted to do the same before being thwarted by a Republican filibuster in September.

"If the Republicans do take over either branch, it's dead," said Johnson, who has been active in Democratic politics for more than a decade on gubernatorial and presidential campaigns and who now works as director of government affairs for a financial firm. "There will be no legislative repeal that will move forward."

Johnson argued that the DADT repeal should not be a partisan issue at all, since it has resulted in the military discharging badly needed Arab linguists, medical professionals, military police and combat officers. But for some voters, many of whom are among the electorate that helped sweep President Obama into office on the promise of change on DADT and more openness in government, the existing policy may make the difference on Tuesday.

Unlike previous elections, where social issues such as gay marriage and abortion have taken prominence, in 2010, those topics have been forced into the backseat due to the economic crisis. In fact, one campaign consultant told MTV News that of the 2 million pieces of e-mail he's sent out over the last two months and the more than 1 billion online impressions he's logged for Republican candidates, there have been little or no blasts related to social issues.

"For young people, jobs and the economy are critical issues because things like the national debt and taxes are becoming increasingly important as young people realize how those issues will affect them in the long-term very directly," said Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at Fordham University and executive editor of Campaigns & Elections, a bipartisan trade publication for the political consulting industry.

"Though Democrats have delivered on a number of things they promised, they've failed to deliver on other key things ... and [some voters] have come to distrust President Obama and question those other achievements and their importance," Panagopoulos said. "His failure to execute leadership on 'don't ask' is one of them. That is weaved into a broader narrative of Obama's failure to exercise leadership on a range of issues and it's feeding into a negative perception overall. It all boils down to giving the public a sense of what kind of person they want in the White House."

How divisive is DADT? Morgenstern said it has not only driven a wedge between the parties, but even created a bit of a division between older and younger Republicans. Like the overall generational divide, he said younger GOP members tend to have more Libertarian, accepting views on social issues such as DADT, while an older generation is focused on concerns about troop morale and security risks.

"I'm happy that this is an issue," Johnson said. "I think that, for younger folks that maybe consider themselves Republicans, gay and lesbian issues are a no-brainer for them ... and it should be. It's a matter of basic fairness and equal rights and I think it's an issue as younger people gain more power ... it's a matter of time."

Will the issue of "don't ask, don't tell" bring you to the polls on Tuesday? Let us know in the comments.