On the eve of the all-important Indiana and North Carolina primaries there are polling signs indicating that in addition to potentially leveling the Democratic nomination playing field, Obama's mis-handling of the Wright affair could cost the Democrats the election in November if Obama is our nominee.
In the survey, conducted after Obama held a news conference Tuesday in which he renounced his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, for making incendiary comments, most Americans said they approve of the way Obama responded to the episode and consider his criticism of Wright appropriate.
But almost half of the voters surveyed, and a substantial portion of the Democrats, said Obama acted mainly because he thought it would help him politically, rather than because he has serious disagreements with his former pastor. The broader effect of the controversy on Obama's candidacy among Democratic primary voters was less clear in the poll, but enough of them expressed qualms about Obama's relationship with Wright to suggest it could sway a relatively small but potentially important group of voters in the remaining primaries.
Republicans are watching closely as Obama falters:
Among Republicans and Democrats alike, Obama's turbulent time is raising questions about why he can't seem to put away Clinton after a 16-month primary fight and whether Obama -- in his first hard-fought race -- is prepared not only to go up against McCain this fall but also to withstand the rigors of the White House.
Republicans hope Obama will be damaged goods come the general election and McCain will have a stronger shot at hanging onto the White House in an extraordinarily difficult political environment. Most Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance and think the country is on the wrong track, while the Iraq war continues and the economy bears down on -- if it's not already in -- a recession.
The GOP now sees a glimmer of light -- a variety of Obama vulnerabilities they can try to exploit if he is the nominee.
One prominent Democrat who backs Clinton recognized as much.
Last week, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh raised the possibility that the GOP will use Obama's association with Wright to try to destroy his character in a general election as the pro-Republican group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth did to Democrat John Kerry in 2004. Said Bayh: "I'm sure the far right will be out there trying to do the whole `Swift Boat' thing."
Conservatives in Florida are counting on a McCain presidency as a result of Obama's bumbling:
If only 27 percent of America's voters have positive opinions of the Republican Party, and the GOP is less trusted to fix the economy than the Democrats, how in hell is it going to elect a president in November?
Down here, where George W. Bush got elected and re-elected with scores of 70 percent plus - and old colonels, the Christian right, and convinced conservatives live a kind of wary symbiosis - their combined wisdom says John McCain will beat Barack Obama because Obama has become unelectable.
"Thank God," one of those retired colonels said last week at a pasta dinner with five Republican friends and a visitor. Amused to think of themselves being portrayed as part of the American right wing's collective belly of the beast, they accepted a trade of anonymity for frankness.
Synopsis: Tuesday night's Democratic primary results would make no difference in the outcome. Obama would be the Democratic nominee. McCain would beat him in turn. The miserable economy, the war in Iraq, Bush's unpopularity? Sure, but:
For these conservatives, white and middle-aged, Obama has transmogrified before their eyes from a remarkable prestidigitator into a divine target.
For the Red Neck Riviera of Florida's Panhandle (or the Emerald Coast in the more genteel vocabulary of the tourist brochures) Obama has become so totally exposed - as a leftist, an elitist out of touch with vast segments of the white majority, a dubious healer saddled with disreputable friendships and unknown debts and obligations - that the colonel could say "McCain is seven strokes ahead on the back nine," and the presidency is in Republican reach.
If you are among those Democrats who still think Obama can pull off the general election look at how quickly Obama has fallen from grace in the last 6 weeks, and remember that we have still have still have about 22 weeks to go before election day in November, and Obama still has lots more votes to lose between now and then.
UPDATE: From the USA/Gallup poll released today:
Barack Obama's national standing has been significantly damaged by the controversy over his former pastor, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, raising questions for some voters about the Illinois senator's values, credibility and electability.[...]
In February, Democrats and Democratic leaners by 33 points said Obama had a better shot at beating Republican John McCain in November. Clinton is now seen as the stronger candidate by 5 points.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!