The Obama campaign is doubling down on gay marriage, without actually taking a position in favor of changing the law.
In a conference call with reporters Monday, senior adviser David Axelrod tried to brush off Joe Biden's remarks on Meet the Press, saying they were "entirely consistent" with the president's position that gay couples "are entitled to the very same rights and very same liberties" as heterosexual couples. Axelrod even seemed to go a step further, saying that "when people are married, we ought to recognize those marriages."
But all this is a stretch, since the "evolving" president isn't proposing to do anything for gay couples other than having administration officials offer rhetorical support—a politically safe way of signaling that Obama is sympathetic to this important Democratic constituency. And what a coincidence: Education Secretary Arne Duncan endorsed gay marriage on Morning Joe, one day after Biden's appearance. Orchestrated? Could be.
But the lack of an official policy switch didn't stop the campaign from going after Mitt Romney on the issue. "There couldn't be a starker contrast," Axelrod said, slamming what he called Romney's "backwards-looking" approach. Ax noted that Romney "believes we need a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage," and said the former governor has "funded efforts to roll back marriage laws in California," where the issue is tied up in the courts.
The Romney camp did not respond to a request for comment.
On the call, Axelrod and Jim Messina also portrayed Romney as a relentlessly negative campaigner, saying nearly 90 percent of his advertising and that of the pro-Romney super PACs have been negative. Axelrod claimed that by next week, Obama will have spent more on positive ads than Romney has spent on his entire campaign.
Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg responded with a generic statement: "President Obama would like for voters to believe he hasn't been president for the last three years. Americans are disappointed in President Obama's liberal policies that haven't made their lives any better ... Mitt Romney will get our country back on track and stop the middle-class squeeze of the Obama economy."
Something tells me Romney isn't anxious to engage on the marriage issue.