The White House’s continuous hinting that they really, truly, in their heart of hearts, support gay marriage is among the more ridiculous subplots of the 2012 election.

The strategic justification for it is that, sometimes, it’s better for the president to let the people get there on their own rather than forcing the issue and losing — an event that can set movements back years, if not decades, as politicians become skittish long past the point that the danger has actually passed.

Vice President Biden is not for gay marriage. Unless he is for it. It’s complicated. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Obama’s claim that he’s evolving on the issue, and his very good record on gay rights generally, has paradoxically made it harder for Obama to continue holding out against gay marriage. His “evolving” position and overall record have left gay advocates fully persuaded that he does favor full equality for gay and lesbian Americans, increasing impatience for him to say so already, and making them all the more certain that his failure to do so is rooted in nothing but political calculation.

The political calculation is fairly straightforward. Take North Carolina, writes Brett LoGiurato. “It’s a swing state. Obama would love to carry it and its 15 electoral votes again in the 2012 election. And oh by the way, it’s about to pass a bill on Tuesday that would ban both gay marriages and civil unions.”

And perhaps that’s the point: The political calculation makes so much sense, and the policy makes so little sense, that few doubt they’re for gay marriage even as no one can accuse them of actually supporting gay marriage.

It turns out, however, that Democrats aren’t alone in trying to bewilder the voters on this issue. On MSNBC today, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said that “the president’s position as it sits today is the same position as Mitt Romney.” Of course, as Dave Weigel points out, the difference is that where Obama wants to punt on the issue for a while longer, Romney has promised to “support sending a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman to the states for ratification.” Obama opposes such an amendment.

And that, in the end, is Obama’s real pitch to the gay community: He’s not Mitt Romney. Better to have the guy who’s “evolving” on the issue than the guy who’s not. Kinda gives a new meaning to the slogan “change we can believe in,” doesn’t it?