by Doctor Science
liberal japonicus got there first, but I'll just add something about what I think are the political calculations involved in Obama's "coming out" in favor of marriage equality. In particular, I suspect it's a tactic designed to appeal to a subset of big donors, especially in the financial industry.
In the first place, no way were Biden's remarks a "gaffe", that was a trial balloon -- which is part of Biden's job, of course. I'm betting Obama's announcement and its timing have been planned for weeks if not months.
If Obama had publicly declared for marriage equality any time before the North Carolina vote, then the headlines yesterday would have been, "NC Voters Reject Obama's Stance". The fact that he made his declaration the very first day after the vote says to me that it was the vote, and the fact that everyone was pretty sure Amendment One was going to pass, that was holding him back.
Now, I'm sure his thinking has indeed "evolved" -- and that the First Lady has been making damn sure it *did* evolve -- but there is no way this is just a "personal" opinion.
Popular opinion about SSM has been shifting at a truly stunning pace:
This is lightning speed, given how novel the idea of same-sex marriage is and how strongly it's been resisted. Obama is not in front of the pack on this issue -- his statement today could be seen as following the populace, not leading.
It will definitely fire up "the Democratic base", especially younger people, who are already strongly in favor of SSM. The Obama campaign really needs the younger generation to do a lot of the campaign drudgework, and to vote and get their friends to vote.
But it also, IMHO, addresses a particular issue for the Obama campaign: needing to keep deep-pocket Wall Street donors who backed him in 2008. These guys are Mitt Romney's natural constituency if the campaign focuses on economic issues, and they aren't feeling very happy with Obama right now.
But a lot of them also strongly support marriage equality. Same-sex marriage was legalized in New York because Republican hedge fund types wanted it -- and you have to figure that Democratic financiers are even more pro-SSM.
For instance, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, vocally supports SSM. So far, Goldman Sachs employees have been supporting Romney more than Obama -- though they were a rich mine for Obama donations in 2008. At the very least, Obama's announcement is going to make a lot of people at Goldman Sachs think twice about whether they want to continue backing Romney. The Obama campaign received $1 million in spontaneous contributions -- and the bundlers and Super-PACs haven't begun to work this angle yet.
There's also the fact that the primaries have proved that Republicans can no more resist going after "social" issues than a bull can resist a red flag. It doesn't matter that the economy is where they're strongest relative to Obama, and that their virulent attacks on LGBT rights, women's rights, and not-conservative-Christian religious rights put off moderate voters. They can't help it, they'll charge that flag every time.
Romney himself isn't like that -- but Romney "himself" (whoever that might be) isn't running. He'll do what his party and its base want, he's their Etch-a-Sketch. But the more of a right-wing True Believer he says he is on "social" issues, the worse he'll do against Obama. My hope is that the same dynamic will hold in Senate, House, and state & local races: that Republicans will forget that It's the Economy, Stupid, and have a frenzy of soldering themselves to the wrong side of history (according to Sheppard Smith, an anchor at Fox News -- at least for now).