Could former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford's (D) position switch on gay marriage further signal he might challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in 2010?

That's how some pundits are reading the New York transplant's line on the Today show this morning, at least.

When asked whether he now supports gay marriage, an area in which Gillibrand has been increasingly vocal and active, Ford replied: "Civil unions and same-sex marriage, yes."

Host Matt Lauer then pressed Ford on whether that qualified as a "change" in position, as the former congressman as recently as 2004 voted for a constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage at the federal level. Again replied Ford:

"Maybe in the language. But I'm a believer that benefits should flow to same sex partners and if indeed the fiction of the language, the title, should be changed, much like Chuck Schumer who changed his mind on it and Bill Clinton's evolved, I'm of the opinion now that nothing is wrong with that."

Consequently, the political chattering class this morning is interpreting Ford's new perspective as an attempt to appeal to the state's liberal base. Gay marriage has become an increasingly important issue in New York, as the state legislature recently took up -- but ultimately defeated -- a bill that would have codified such unions into law.

Still, this would not be the first sign that Ford is interested in challenging Gillibrand, viewed by many as vulnerable. Last week, Ford's spokesman fired a warning shot at the Gillibrand camp, stressing the prospective candidate would not be "bullied or intimidated" by "party bosses" who would prefer him not to enter the race.