The Clinton attack machine comes up short

It’s only one poll and the spreads aren’t significant, but the latest survey from Fox News has Hillary Clinton leading Barack Obama by a 44-41 margin, and doing better than Barack Obama against John McCain. According to the survey, Clinton leads McCain by one percentage point, while Obama trails him by three.

Hillary probably needs both confirmation from other polls that she’s more popular than Obama and bigger margins if she’s going to wrest the nomination from Obama through super-delegates (her only remaining path). But she can certainly take encouragement from the Fox poll.

Clinton’s latest progress presumably is due mostly to the pastor Wright affair. (Obama must think so, inasmuch as he finally saw fit to “disown” Wright). Indeed, had Obama’s difficulties in this regard started to play out, say, three months earlier than they did, it’s quite likely that Clinton would be ahead of him now.

And that raises a question for which I have no clear answer: why didn’t the Clinton machine get this story and have it disseminated months ago? Recall that towards the end of 2007, Hillary declared “no more Ms. Nice Gal,” and her campaign went on the attack. The attack, though, consisted of idiocy, such as the infamous kindergarten essay in which Obama expressed his desire to become president. Meanwhile the Wright connection, which was well-known, apparently went unexplored.

Researching and then talking about Wright would, of course, have exposed Clinton to charges of playing the race card, and it’s understandable if Clinton was concerned about having others do her dirty work lest the campaign’s involvement come to light. However, it became obvious in the run-up to the South Carolina primary, if not before, that Clinton had lost the black vote. And with that, it became clear that Obama had a good shot at the nomination. That was the time, if not before, to find a way to take advantage of the Wright-Obama connection. But it didn’t happen.

Was Clinton still over-confident? Did fear of the party’s left cause undue self-censorship? Are the Clintons really only good at beating up Bill’s ex-girl friends and non-politicians like Ken Starr? Beats me.

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