When There Is Nothing Left to Burn You Have to Set Your Campaign on Fire


The much-maligned Zogby poll, which so badly blew the New Hampshire and California* primaries, actually did quite well in Pennsylvania and Texas. Zogby's tactic is to enter the field late and publish poll results over the last week before voters go to the polls; in those last two states** that meant he caught late movement to Hillary Clinton and called the results exactly right.

Here's what Zogby's saying about post-Wright North Carolina, where 15 percent of voters say the pastor's soured them on Obamania:

Obama—50 percent
Clinton—34 percent
Someone else(?)—8 percent
Other—8 percent

And Indiana's a 42-42 tie, with 21 percent of voters fretting about Wright. Zogby's outlook is a bit sunnier for Obama than most pollsters, but I'm convinced that he's worth following again. There's just no way that Obama can lose a state, like NC, where close to 40 percent of voters will be black. He'd have to lose the white vote by 60 points to lose, worse than he even did in Mississippi, and North Carolina has a fair sight more college kids and latte liberals than Haley Barbour's fiefdom.

I bring this up because of the engaging back-and-forth going on between Daniels McCarthy and Larison over at the AmCon. Larison thinks Obama has been done in by Wright; McCarthy thinks he's hit his nadir and is bound to rise against a GOP opponent who hasn't taken a punch all year.

The political environment that exists now, however, is nothing like the one that will exist in the summer, let alone November, when the Democrats will be fighting McCain instead of each other and the media glare will be upon the Arizonan as well as Obama. The present circumstances are—as several commentators, including me, have pointed out—the best that McCain is likely to enjoy for the rest of the season. I suspect present conditions are also nearly rock-bottom for Obama, though it's a mistake ever to underestimate how much slime a Clinton can excrete. Nevertheless, barring new skeletons spilling out of Obama's closest, the race is going to get better for him and worse for McCain.

McCarthy daydreams about the Democratic Convention and the bounce Obama will get when the party unites behind him. I think that's right, and I think Obama's Wright explosion this week, paradoxically, is making an Obama nomination more likely. For the first time Obama's entering a primary as bruised and mocked as Bill Clinton was before the 1992 New Hampshire primary. A week ago he was expected to win North Carolina easy, and Indiana would be the "tiebreaker" that the media paid attention to. Now if he loses Indiana narrowly and wins North Carolina by about 10 points (the black vote plus 30 percent of whites), he can sieze back the spin.

Another Zogby result from earlier in the week, predicting a four-way general election:

Obama (D)—45 percent
McCain (R)—42 percent
Barr (L)—3 percent
Nader (I)—1 percent

Barr rises to 4 percent in a Clinton matchup.

*Some of the explanation for that was the high absentee vote for Clinton. She won on election day narrowly, but won big with postal voters.

**Yes, Mississippi and Wyoming came between them, but they were so safely Obama that no one really polled them.