There is further evidence that something has changed in the Democratic primary race. In the latest CBS poll Barack Obama went from a 16 point lead in February to a 3 point lead (a statistical tie) over Hillary Clinton among Democratic primary voters. Clinton has made progress with both male and female voters. Worse still for Obama, he now trails John McCain among independents by 8 points (after leading him by 10 a month ago) and his lead over McCain overall is down 7 points. (Liberal bloggers are panicky about other polls showing Obama falling behind McCain in key swing states.)
Is this all attributable to the Reverend Wright revelations? Unlikely. More likely is that the combined impact of Wright, Clinton’s attacks on Obama’s readiness to be commander-in-chief and some closer media scrutiny has changed the lay of the land. More worrisome for Obama is the possibility that the novelty of his candidacy has worn off and like any fad, what once was exciting now seems trite.
Whether Clinton can continue to press ahead and rack up a needed series of primary wins remains to be seen. Her own unfavorability rating in the latest CBS poll is the highest of the three remaining presidential contenders. Her progress, it appears, has come from a decline in his appeal, not necessarily a burst of enthusiasm from Democratic primary voters about her.
So if there is now a contest between candidates over which can accumulate the most baggage and become less attractive in the eyes of voters it would be foolish to count out the Clintons. Once we’re out of the realm of inspiration and into the field of negative campaigning, they have few peers.