Did Obama Put Wright Behind Him?

Most MSM commentators have hailed Barack Obama’s speech on religion as a success, if not a masterpiece. Perhaps. But current polling shows that the Jeremiah Wright controversy has hurt Obama; Hillary Clinton has closed the gap among Democrats, and in the latest Gallup poll actually has a seven-point lead over Obama.
These polls do not, of course, register the impact of Obama’s speech on Tuesday. But the best indicator I’ve seen so far suggests that Obama’s speech, however well received it may have been by pundits, did not put the Wright issue behind him. That would be the AOL Hot Seat poll that we conducted yesterday. More than 270,000 people voted–a remarkable number, I think, reflecting an extraordinary level of interest in the story–and only 26% said that Obama’s speech had “solved [Obama’s] Rev. Jeremiah Wright problem.” Sure, online polls are unscientific. But 270,000 voters is an enormous sample, and AOL is hardly a right-leaning site.
That could change over time, and the issue could fade away. But for now, at least, dangerous fissures have opened up among Democratic voters. Scott Rasmussen reports some striking data: in his most recent survey, John McCain is surging, leading Obama by 49% to 42%, and Hillary Clinton by 51% to 41%. This suggests that the Wright controversy may be hurting Clinton as well as Obama. Further numbers from Rasmussen’s survey explain why this could be true:

African-American support for Clinton has collapsed, falling to 55% in the general election match-up. Obama, on the other hand, earns solid support from African-American voters but attracts only 36% of white voters in a match-up with McCain.

Presumably many of these Democrats, although irate at the moment, would come back into the fold between now and November. Still, this swing in McCain’s favor must be worrying to Democratic Party leaders, especially the superdelegates who will have to decide whether Clinton or Obama should be the party’s nominee.
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