In the week since Barack Obama announced the end of his “evolution” on gay marriage, the reaction from Republicans has been remarkably muted. Mitt Romney repeatedly declined to take shots at the president, simply emphasizing that he has his view and the President has a different one, and that reasonable people can disagree. And it’s not just Romney: from Boehner on down, Republicans have not decided to go to war with Obama on the issue.

The conventional wisdom on this strategy—compared to 2004, when Republicans thought gay marriage was a big winning issue for them—is that it’s driven by a poll shift. The country is now closely divided on gay marriage, with perhaps a slim advantage for its proponents, and independents think Republicans seem mean when they talk about it.