Saturday, April 26, 2008
Since her big win in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Clinton's mantra has been the tide is turning. But is she correct, or is it mere political spin from a desperate and dying candidate? If the latest Gallup Daily Tracking Poll is any indication, she may be onto something truly substantive. Sen. Barack Obama could be in serious trouble. But wait, it gets worse for him. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright resurfaced to haunt him this week. And the Florida and Michigan voter problem may soon be settled. To be sure, this has not been a good week for the junior Senator from Illinois.
According to Gallup, Clinton and Obama are now virtually tied, with Obama at 48% to Clinton's 47%. While this represents a drop of about 10 percentage points from his recent high, the real critical bit of news in these numbers is that Clinton's polling has vastly improved among previously undecided voters. Obama's support among Democrats has changed little in the past week--dropping from 50% to 48%--while much of Clinton's increase from 40%-47% has come from those who were previously on the fence. Just as she picked up most of the last-minute deciders in the PA primary, if she continues to do this it will undoubtedly sweeten the narrative she and her supporters are presenting to the super-delegates. Momentum is key, and she clearly has it. The new poll shows that Obama's support is stagnant at best, while more and more Democrats are joining team-Hillary.
The poll indicates another turning point for Clinton. She now leads the GOP's presumptive nominee Sen. John McCain 47% to 45%, while Obama trails the Republican dinosaur 46% to 45%. Polls shmolls, right? Perhaps. And I'm not a huge fan of them, as they tend to change frequently. But we'd be remiss to ignore them as a possible predictor of things to come. Especially when all other momentum seems to be moving from one candidate to another. Polls can be wrong, but more often than not they are correct. The new survey is also key because it takes some wind out of the Obama supporter's sails. Many friends and associates who've been arguing their candidate's viability with me typically cite his lead against both Clinton and McCain. At least for now, that spin is gone.
Now let's move on to House Majority Whip James Clyburn (SC), who earlier this week accused former President Bill Clinton of playing the "race card" before the PA primary. Give us a break. It's actually Clyburn who appears to be playing the race card, no. Does every single criticism of Obama have to be rooted in racial prejudice? This is just more whining from someone who shares Obama's profound sense of entitlement. Someone who, like the many Obama supporters who've relentlessly called for Hillary's early exit from the campaign, is forgetting that this is a contest. And some political contests are heated and close. Sometimes they last until the end. In this particular contest, not everything has to always be about race. Sometimes it's just about two candidates slugging it out in an effort to win. Just like McCain and Mitt Romney did this Winter. Or McCain and George Bush in 2000. Or Bush/Kerry in '04. Were those ugly, bitter contests about race? It's irresponsible of Clyburn, who also happens to head the Congressional Black Caucus, to toss around such incendiary rhetoric, especially when his views are not even shared by his fellow members. Of the CBC's 43 members, 23 back Obama, 15 support Clinton, and five are undecided.
Now onto Rev. Wright, whose nationally televised appearance with PBS's Bill Moyers Friday evening couldn't have come at a worse time for Obama as he heads into key battles in Indiana and North Carolina May 6th. Wright, who Obama has stood by and refused to trash, used the interview as an attempt to redeem himself even at the expense of his former parishioner and protege:
"He's a politician, I'm a pastor. We speak to two different audiences. And he says what he has to say as a politician. I say what I have to say as a pastor. But they're two different worlds."
Wright was referring to the highly acclaimed speech Obama made recently in response to the mounting concern over the Reverend's highly controversial sermons in which he damned America and said its "chickens have come home to roost" in the 9-11 attacks. What's most damaging here to Obama is not that Wright is back in the spotlight again--which is of course not what Obama needs or wants--but how it undermines the candidate's own meticulously crafted image as not just another politician. Wright so easily threw Obama under the very same bus he was spared from. And if his own preacher, someone who mentored him for twenty years and in whom he found great inspiration, sees him as just another politician, is the Obama campaign really just one big myth? If this is how Wright sees Obama, how should the rest of us view him?
Lastly, the Democratic National Committee said its Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet May 31 in Washington, D.C., to consider whether it exceeded its authority when it stripped Florida and Michigan of its delegates for scheduling their primaries earlier than the DNC allowed. This is significant, as Clinton has been fighting to re-seat these delegates and have those states' popular votes counted, while Obama has done everything in his legal power to prevent it. If Clinton succeeds, it could materially alter both Obama's delegate and pop vote counts, further weakening his position as the rightful heir to the nomination. In my opinion, it's a bit disingenuous of Obama to present himself publicly as the candidate of hope and change, the great uniter who's bringing America together, while privately fighting to disenfranchise Florida and Michigan's voters by keeping them out of the race.
One thing's for sure, this contest is definitely far from over.