Two numbers explain Barack Obama’s incoherence on gay marriage more than any other. According to the Washington Post, one in six of Obama’s top campaign bundlers — the fundraisers who bring together major donations — are gay. In Hertford County, North Carolina, which is 60 percent black and voted 70 percent for Obama in 2008, Amendment One — a ballot initiative defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman — passed with 70 percent of the vote. That’s nine points better than the amendment did statewide.
In 2008, black voters helped Obama carry California by a landslide margin. They also gave Proposition 8, defining marriage as a man and a woman, 70 percent of the vote. There are rumblings that the president may complete his “evolution” on this issue today. If so, it will be because he concluded the hit he will take with black voters is much smaller than the harm his current position is doing among gay activists and donors. Obama’s reluctance to support same-sex marriage up to this point has to do with maximizing black turnout and carrying states like North Carolina.
UPDATE: Ross Douthat supplies some other numbers that might explain the president’s caution.