It appears the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama has been appreciably impacted by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy, raising new questions about the Illinois Democrat's electability against presumptive Republican nominee John McCain in the November presidential election. New polls indicate that Obama could be in real trouble not only in a head-to-head with McCain, but that Democrats could be shifting back to Sen. Hillary Clinton in the current fiery Democratic contest.
In the most significant turnaround, a new CBS poll shows McCain now leads both Obama and Clinton among independent voters. Just a month ago Obama maintained a 10 point lead over McCain in this highly coveted group but now trails by 8 points. Most pundits agree that the outcome of the general election could hinge upon which candidate captures the support of independents.
And in another major turnaround, a new USA Today/Gallup poll shows that Clinton has regained her lead over Obama for the first time in almost two months. The survey, taken after the Rev. Wright scandal broke but before Obama's major speech on race this week, has Clinton with a 49%-42% lead over Obama. Just a week ago Obama led 50%-44%. As to the potential impact of Obama's much-heralded speech, Gallup's Jeff Jones said "the initial indications are that the speech has not halted Clinton's gaining momentum as she led by a similar margin in Tuesday night's polling as compared to Monday night's polling."
In the general election, Gallup showed McCain leading Obama 47%-43%. As recently as a week ago Obama held a 50%-44% lead over the Arizona Senator. But the CBS poll had Obama ahead 48%-43%, a drop from his 50%-38% lead last month.
Something else to consider: while Obama's favorable ratings remain largely unchanged at 44%, there's been a significant drop in undecided views to unfavorable views, to 30% from February's 23%. And he's also lost ground with male Democratic voters.
As I've been saying for weeks now, there's a whole lotta time between now and the August convention, and it's abundantly clear that HillaBamaDramaRama will continue, with both candidates swinging in a momentum pendulum. So my point is, no one poll is an indication of anything. Obama could very well sail from here on in, or his campaign could implode. Same for Hillary. But again, as I've also been saying for weeks, this historic contest is far from over.
All things considered, it still appears Obama is the odds-on favorite to snag the nomination, but Democrats would be remiss to ignore the challenges he's facing as indicated by these new polls. For Clinton, she really needs to score a political hat trick in order to grab the prize in August: a big win in Pennsylvania April 22; a lead in the popular vote; and more scandal such as the contentious speeches of Rev. Wright. Well, Pennsylvania has and continues to look very favorably for her, and Obama clearly has been negatively impacted by Wright. The question is, can she somehow pull ahead in the popular vote. If she does, and she remains close in the pledged-delegate count, then she stands a very good shot of convincing the super-delegates to support her...especially if she continues to gain in the polls against a continued drop in support for Obama among independents and males. Her 'electability' narrative could be quite strong at that time, and that could really shake these elite party officials into ultimately coming over to her side.