The Hillary Deathwatch
More Wright fallout and a North Carolina endorsement buoy Clinton once again.
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A media frenzy over the Rev. Wright, a bump in matchup polls, and a key North Carolina endorsement buoy Clinton's chances 0.5 points to 12.9 percent.
The response to the Rev. Wright's speech at the National Press Club was so negative, some papers must be prepping Barack Obama's obituary. "PASTOR DISASTER," screamed the New York Post. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank, under the headline "Could Rev. Wright Spell Doom for Obama?," argues that Wright "added lighter fuel" to the controversy by repeating some of his most inflammatory ideas. Indeed, Wright criticized America's foreign policy, praised Louis Farrakhan, and reiterated his conviction that the government created AIDS as a method of population control. In Bob Herbert's words, Wright went to Washington "not to praise Barack Obama, but to bury him."
Think back, though, to when Wright's remarks first emerged. The sky was falling, the horse race was over, and Obama was getting shipped off to the glue factory. Yet his national poll numbers hardly moved. In Pennsylvania, he continued to close the gap with Clinton. It's impossible to isolate cause and effect in flaps like this, but in retrospect the Wright flap (at least version 1.0) looked much more media-driven than voter-driven. There's little to indicate that Wright's "revenge tour" will be any different. It doesn't bode well that Wright enjoys the spotlight. But in the long run, Obama is lucky that Wright came out of hiding now rather than in October. There's no doubt that ties to Wright would hurt Obama in the general (even though more than half of Americans don't believe Obama shares Wright's views), but anybody who was going to vote against Obama because of his crazy preacher had probably already heard of him.
Superdelegates are a different story. Obama continues to close Clinton's lead, picking up endorsements from Sen. Jeff Bingaman, N.M., and Rep. Ben Chandler, Ky. Clinton now leads by 23 supers. But Clinton snaps up the biggest endorsement of the day, North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley. Easley's backing is symbolic for several reasons. First, he's got cred among NASCAR voters, which could help Clinton perpetuate the Obama-is-elitist narrative. Second, he initially backed John Edwards, suggesting that this could foretell an Edwards announcement. (Elizabeth Edwards is reportedly pushing him to endorse Clinton.) And lastly, his state will almost certainly go for Obama, making his decision that much more difficult. Some reports claim Easley was disappointed with Obama for refusing to debate Clinton in his state.
In the polls, Clinton gets a boost as well. A new AP/Ipsos poll has her leading John McCain, 50 percent to 41 percent. Obama, meanwhile, remains tied with McCain, 46 percent to 44 percent. Obama should be concerned, certainly, but for now this poll is an outlier: The last several matchup polls show both Obama and Clinton roughly even with McCain.
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Illustration by Rob Donnelly.