Hillary Clinton released the above video today, announcing her support for gay marriage. It may come as a surprise that Clinton hadn't already backed the right of same-sex couples to marry, but her last public stance on the matter came as a presidential candidate in 2008, when she supported civil unions for same-sex couples, but not gay marriage. Her announcement comes on the heels of a much more surprising one from Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who was a cosponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman (signed into law by some guy named Bill Clinton). Portman announced his support for same-sex marriage last week, citing his having a gay son as the reason for his conversion.
The simple fact that Hillary Clinton supports same-sex marriage and took the time to announce it is, by itself, good, if unremarkable. It's all the details around this announcement that make it look like Hillary's first steps into the field of 2016 presidential contenders. Watch the video, and it's clear that Hillary is reading from a tightly wound script. Her language and tone are measured, articulate and inoffensive. She talks about her time as Secretary of State, and how she pressured leaders of (unnamed) countries to accept human rights as applying to all humans. She uses the phrase "a more perfect union" more than once.
Then there's the timing: Clinton could have released this video at any point, but she chose to put it out on a Monday, when it will get plenty of coverage, and be useful talk show fodder for a full week. Hillary also managed to get this video out early enough for it to feel like an unsolicited announcement. Senator Portman became the only Congressional Republican currently in office to announce his support for same-sex marriage, but suppose his announcement sparks a few more Republicans to come out for gay marriage: Hillary could be in the awkward spot of appearing to support gay marriage only after a bunch of Republicans did too. More generally, making this announcement years before any actual campaigning will happen reinforces the idea that Clinton is simply making an announcement based solely on her belief that gay people should have the right to marry.
Of course, all that could be wrong, but that's kind of my point. Hillary Clinton's goal right now, if she is planning on running for president in 2016, ought to be to stay in the news in a positive way that doesn't make it look like she's campaigning. From this video, I'd say she's off to a good start.