For a candidate who allegedly has an insurmountable lead and who is all but guaranteed the nomination, Obama's campaign is behaving like an operation in crisis. Probably because it is. The Wright revelations are actually not new, but have finally escaped the right wing email circuit and hit the mainstream. This stuff has been percolating in Greater Wingnuttia for months.
Does everyone remember the flap last year about Robert Novak saying that the Clinton campaign had some deep dreadful oppo research on Obama, and how Obama challenged them to produce it or "retract"? I suspect this is the story Novak was alluding to, and that (given its nature), he hoped he could prod the campaign to let it slip, all to Hillary's detriment. I've always been curious about Obama's belligerent, almost hysterical behavior at that time. What on earth could be so bad (aside from dead girl/live boy) that he'd behave like that? Now we know. What we also know is that everyone in the game knew about this story - all the MSM players, all the Democratic candidates, all the kids in oppo - and everyone was breathlessly waiting for someone to spill the beans.
A veritable Sword of Damocles. (Note - I suggest that y'all go read up on the Sword of Damocles so you understand the full applicability of this anecdote.)
I don't own a TV so I read up on the atrocities via the web. When reading over the accounts of the Sunday talk shows today, what struck me was the way in which the Obama side simultaneously vehemently denied that Wright was a problem and just as aggressively tried to claim that the Hillary campaign was behind it all (just like with the Somali photo) and/or build up Gerry Ferraro as some purveyor of hate crimes. This follows on Obama himself trying to wiggle his way out of acknowledging the relationship on the Friday gab-shows, and is accompanied by an announcement that they are going to attack Hillary on several fronts. Armando/BTD has a good analysis on this here at TalkLeft.
Obama's defenders (Hillary's, too, for that matter) on the shows were really not talking to people like me, people who have already formed an opinion of Wright, who have already cast a primary vote, and who are not super delegates. They aren't talking to supporters or to detractors; the only audience is those who have not yet cast a ballot:
- Voters in the upcoming primaries who will choose a candidate and may change the pledged delegate allocation.
- Undeclared super delegates
To the average voter, the Obama angle is to tamp out the Wright debacle ASAP as a mentionable campaign issue and make it go away, hoping non-AA voters forget about it before Pennsylvania, the Michigan and Florida revotes (yes, I think they will both happen), and Kentucky. The danger here is that the combustible nature of Wright's speeches (and, no, I don't think that they are unrepresentative of the man's thought, though they may not be representative of his average sermon.) will outrage the core Democratic voter, the Reagan Democrat blue collar, "lunch bucket" person who isn't black and who is feeling a little worried about the economy.
The real target, though, was the undeclared super delegates, and the argument there was more like a performative - look, see how we are removing this as an issue from the table? You don't have to worry that this is going to impact us in the general. It was just a dirty campaign trick by Hillary and it will not be used against us by the republicans. Oh, please, pleeease believe us!
The trouble here is that this story has been peddled by FOX News and the Republicans, though at a very low volume, since last summer. It matters that Novak was trying to make HRC be the bagholder on this one, and her campaign is (very wisely) refusing this trap, even when they could probably exploit it in the upcoming primaries.
Watch for Obama's team to try even harder to prevent Michigan and Florida from revoting because then they will be passign judgment on him in light of this news, and their voters are not likely to view it with much favor. I also suspect that the Democrat for a Day schtick is going to backfire badly in Pennsylvania because of the combination of the economy and the offensiveness of Wright. Republicans who don't really support McCain and who are infuriated by the Wright video clips may line up behind Hillary, and in this case I think you will see a new breed of cross-over voter - Hillary Republicans. Unlike Obama's cynical "Dem for a Day," these are voters who will probably stick around, especially the women voters.
This is explosive, campaign ending stuff, and Obama knows it. This is real racism, not the BS jabs at white liberal guilt they've been pushing against Hillary, and is exactly what the Republicans want for the general, something they can use to push up their own turn out and get party members unenthused about McCain all riled up, just like they used the anti-gay measures last time. It is not a mistake that the incendiary ballot issues the Republicans are pushing this year are about affirmative action. The Wright videos are what they need to make it visceral. They won't have much convincing to do.
Obama is trying to convince the super delegates that he isn't a losing proposition in the general election, and his way to do it is to trash Hillary even more.