The Hillary Deathwatch
Obama slams Wright, Clinton's gas-tax plan gets jeers, and Indiana is still a tossup.
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Barack Obama slams the Rev. Wright, Clinton's gas-tax plan receives jeers, and Indiana is still a tossup, all of which brings Clinton down 0.3 points to 12.6 percent.
Obama's decision to cut Wright loose Tuesday was an investment in the future: Let the story dominate news for one more day, then hope it tapers off. In a press conference, Obama said he's "outraged" at Wright's recent remarks about Louis Farrakhan, the government inventing AIDS, and U.S. military efforts being equivalent to terrorism. These comments "should be denounced," Obama said, adding, "I do not see the relationship being the same after this."
It's too early to say whether this move diffuses the Wright issue. Now that Wright got a taste of the spotlight, he probably doesn't want to go away. (Obama had better hope Wright's book tour happens after Nov. 5.) But at least Obama can dissociate himself fully from his pastor, as opposed to upholding the earlier wishy-washy (some would say nuanced) disown-the-words-but-not-the-man stance he articulated in his Philadelphia speech last month.
Meanwhile, Clinton is making her "gas-tax holiday" the centerpiece of a new ad campaign, condemning Obama for failing to address high prices at the pump. But among pundits, her proposal (and McCain's similar plan) is getting laughed out of the room. The normally sympathetic Paul Krugman calls Clinton's plan "pointless" and McCain's "evil," while his colleague Thomas Friedman denounces the plan as "money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks." Still, it's the kind of pander that could work, no matter how transparent or absurd. If voters associate Clinton with cheap gas, mission accomplished.
The superdelegate scene is something of a wash today. Obama snags Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley and Indiana Rep. Baron Hill, while Clinton picks up Pennsylvania AFL-CIO president Bill George, narrowing Clinton's lead to 21 supers. Some people think more are on the way. The trickle of supers is telling, though: It shows that the worst Wright week ever has not yet been enough to drive superdelegates away from Obama.
In the polls, Indiana hasn't shed its tossup status. A new Howey-Gauge survey shows the two candidates statistically tied, with Obama at 47 percent and Clinton at 45 percent. But the last few Indiana polls show Clinton leading. The fate of the race hangs in the balance! Indiana is all-powerful! Except, not really. If, like us, you believe that superdelegates are going to be very squeamish about voting against the pledged delegate count, then Indiana merely determines whether Clinton drops out in May or June.
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Illustration by Rob Donnelly.