Obama is looking to ride the zeitgeist:
The White House would not comment on whether Mr. Obama was ready to endorse same-sex marriage. But one Democratic strategist close to the White House, speaking only on the condition of anonymity, said some senior advisers "are looking at the tactics of how this might be done if the president chose to do it."And Representative Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who is gay, said in an interview that a top adviser to Mr. Obama, whom he would not name, asked him this year, "What would be the effect if he came out for same-sex marriage?""My own view is that I look at President Obama's record, he was probably inclined to think that same-sex marriage was legitimate, but as a candidate for president in 2008 that would have been an unwise thing to say," Mr. Frank said. "And I don't mean that he's being hypocritical. I mean that if you live in a democratic society, it is a mix of what you think the voters want and what you think is doable."
I think this is about right. It is one of the weird features of American democracy that politicians are both expected to reflect the beliefs of Americans, at at the same time pretend that they are reflecting their own views. Obama could never explicitly say, "Hey I'm for gay marriage, but most Americans aren't, so I can't support it." Or some such. Instead he has to make a religious case, and one, given his prior history, that doesn't really pass the smell test.
MORE: Andrew takes on the notion that Obama's position is evolving:
His politics are evolving more like it. I have no actual doubt that Obama supports marriage equality. His public demurrals are pure politics - and they have long troubled me. But if you see this presidency as one committed to "leading from behind", it all makes some kind of sense. It may be that by the end of his eight years, he will emerge as the most significant president for gay equality.But he will have presided over it, not led it. I think that's how he sees the presidency as a whole. As a national community organizer, whose job it is to guide, shape but follow.
I think the thing that's most troubling about the "evolving" fudge is it feels like someone is insulting your intelligence. This is clearly a move to back gay marriage as soon as enough Americans do the same. I'm actually fine with that. It's positioning it as some sort of deep, internal struggle that rankles.