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First thoughts: Wright reappears

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Wright reappears…: Obama had himself a bad day yesterday, and he wasn't even on the campaign trail. Thanks to the advanced excerpts of a Rev. Jeremiah Wright interview on PBS (which airs tonight at 9:00 pm ET), as well as Wright's dismissal of Obama's criticism of him as just politics, this wasn't something the Obama campaign could have been pleased with. That said, if the Moyers interview -- which will likely only be watched by Obama's PBS-watching base, but will also be picked up by others -- ends up humanizing Wright, it could be helpful in the long term. But short term, his appearance wasn't helpful in a week the Clinton campaign is ramping up its argument that Obama isn't electable.

VIDEO: NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, says controversial statements from his sermons were taken out of context.

*** … And so does Bill: But will Bill Clinton -- and the comments he made earlier this week about Obama playing the race card -- overshadow Wright today? It might happen, thanks to these comments by Rep. Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in Congress. "In an interview with The New York Times late Thursday, Mr. Clyburn said Mr. Clinton's conduct in this campaign had caused what might be an irreparable breach between Mr. Clinton and an African-American constituency that once revered him. 'When he was going through his impeachment problems, it was the black community that bellied up to the bar,' Mr. Clyburn said. 'I think black folks feel strongly that that this is a strange way for President Clinton to show his appreciation.'" More: "Clyburn added that there appeared to be an almost 'unanimous' view among African-Americans that Mr. and Mrs. Clinton were 'committed to doing everything they possibly can to damage Obama to a point that he could never win.'" Clyburn's the first major Dem leader to give voice to the speculation that Clinton is staying in to prepare for 2012. By the way, Clyburn is still officially uncommitted but given the opinions he's expressing, is he really? 

*** The CW is now set: Two new Indiana polls are out that show the race there to be as close as we have expected it to be. Per a South Bend Tribune/Research 2000 poll (conducted April 21 to April 24), it's Obama 48%, Clinton 47%. And an Indy Star/WTHR poll -- conducted (April 20 to April 23) by Ann Selzer, who famously got Iowa right -- has it Obama 41%, Clinton 38%. The biggest surprise in the Selzer survey is Obama's strength against McCain -- he leads him in Indi-freaking-ana! Clinton's basically even with McCain. Is the GOP brand in THAT bad of shape in reliably red Indiana? According to these and other polls, this race doesn't look like Ohio or Pennsylvania at all, where Clinton had significant leads two weeks out. Rather, it looks like a jump ball. Meanwhile, the Washington Post cements the CW about North Carolina: To change the race, Clinton needs to upset Obama here, or get awfully close to it. "North Carolina, with its large African American population, has long been seen as a firewall for Obama after contests in Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere that favored Clinton. A win here and in Indiana, which also votes May 6, could cement his status as the front-runner."

VIDEO: Chuck Todd talks about the potential for a general election fight in Indiana and Majority Leader Harry Reid's assertion that he may call on superdelegates to pledge their support, soon.

*** Track the ad spending: What's going on with Clinton's money? According to various sources, here's what we know right now regarding TV ad buys: Obama is up in Indiana, North Carolina, Oregon, and now Kentucky. Clinton is on par with Obama in Indiana and has a little less money on the air than Obama in the Tar Heel State. This will be a good way to find out just how much of Clinton's initial $10 million windfall is useful in the primary. Currently she's not up in any states beyond IN and NC, but $10 million is more than enough for those two states. So watch the buys closely in these two states plus Kentucky, West Virginia, and Oregon to see how deep the Clinton campaign's resources are.

*** Jumping ship? This piece by Tom Edsall in the Huffington Post is bound to be a topic of discussion today: "In a blink of an eye, the media has jumped ship from the Obama campaign and become a crucial Clinton ally, pressing just the message -- that Obama is a likely loser in the general election -- that Hillary and her allies have been promoting for the past six weeks… For Hillary, the shift is a potential lifesaver as she struggles to keep her head above water; without it, she would, metaphorically, drown." The media's constant refrain, Edsall's piece points out, is that exit polls show Obama faring poorly with working-class voters, and that could doom him in the fall. But as one of us wrote yesterday, has this exit-poll analysis gone a little too far? After all, when McCain was losing evangelicals, weekly church-goers, and Republicans without college degrees -- even after the he became the presumptive GOP nominee -- no one was declaring that he'd have a huge problem with these folks in the fall. Can exit polls in a primary race tell us as much about the general election as the chattering class is claiming when you're dealing with different candidates and different voters? 

*** What are the supers thinking? While the focus after Pennsylvania is all on Obama, Elizabeth Drew has a piece in the Politico reminding us all the flaws that Hillary would bring to the table in a general election -- flaws that the superdelegates aren't forgetting. Clinton, she writes, still hasn't answered the question marks over her head: Can she be a helpful leader of the Democratic Party? Can she have a better track record at building the party than her husband did? Right now, she doesn't have to answer those questions because she's the challenger; it's Obama's burden. But the undecided superdelegates are remembering the original reasons they didn't rush to her side in the first place. Ultimately, if she's to convince the supers to deny Obama the nomination, she needs to answer the concerns Dems originally had with her. 

*** What will it take? Yesterday, Obama picked up Oregon Rep. David Wu, and has rolled out three superdelegates to Clinton's one despite Clinton's Pennsylvania primary victory. Clinton very nearly reached that 10-point mark in Pennsylvania, and superdelegates don't yet appear to be moved. Clinton leads in the superdelegate count 263-240, the closest the count has been. Obama leads overall: 1,731-1,597. In the pledged count, Obama is up 1,491-1,334. There are 292 superdelegates still to be had (229 of those are named; there are 63 vacancies/add-ons).

*** GOP targets Obama: The LA Times runs a piece on the GOP ramping up its attacks -- on TV and radio -- against Obama. Once again, the CW has been overturned: A year ago, the assumption was the Democratic nominee was going to have the time and resources to define the GOP nominee. Well, it appears the Republican Party is getting the head start on defining Obama, thanks to the protracted race. In fact, it couldn't have worked out better -- as Clinton's attacks on Obama are helping to reinforce the GOP attacks. The Republican Party can afford to ignore Clinton for now because 1) they don't believe she'll be the nominee and 2) they've spent 16 years defining her to swing voters.

*** On the trail: Clinton begins her day in Jacksonville, NC and then heads to Indiana, where she stumps in Bloomington, Gary, and East Chicago; McCain is in Little Rock, AR, where he visits and holds a media avail at Arkansas Baptist College and then goes to Oklahoma City; and Obama, in Indiana, holds a rally in Bloomington (about an hour before Clinton's event there) and a town hall in Kokomo. Also, Bill Clinton is in Oregon, and Chelsea Clinton and Michelle Obama are in Indiana. 

Countdown to North Carolina, Indiana: 11 days
Countdown to West Virginia: 18 days
Countdown to Kentucky and Oregon: 25 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 193 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 270 days
 
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