ELECTION 08: The Speech Edition

Nuanced; honest; impressive; brilliant; precedent-making; these are just a few of the many adjectives used to describe Obama’s speech on race, now entitled, ‘A More Perfect Union’. I don’t feel the need to extol the veracity and merits of the speech; if you’re looking for interpretation you need search no farther than the above links. Regardless, this has to be considered one of the most, if not the most, serious discussion on race by a major candidate for the presidency; and, politically, the most efficient response to criticism since JFK addressed his Catholicism in 1960.

Undoubtedly this speech didn’t completely efface Obama’s connection to Rev. Wright, and, to some of his more unhinged critics, Obama’s refusal to ‘disown’ Wright, and Obama equating Wright’s statements with the bigotry of his white grandmother have given some conservatives ammo to continue their barrage against Barack. But for every knock there has been a boost and people on both sides of the ideological aisle have laid testament to the strength of Obama’s words. Charles Murray, Mike Huckabee (yeah, that Huckabee), Douglas Kmiec (former head of the Office of Legal Counsel for Pres. Regan and Bush I) and, astoundingly, Fox News host Chris Wallace, who actually came on the Fox and Friends morning show to tell them to stop bashing Obama, have displayed admiration for the junior senator from Illinois.

This praise hasn’t existed in a bubble; it has spilled out into the public. Early last week, in the days leading up to the speech, the non-stop media assault against Rev. Wright had led to steep drop in the polls for Obama, and for the few days after the speech that drop didn’t show signs of ceasing. However, what major news syndicates didn’t mention is that many of these polls have a three day cycle that didn’t take into account for the time after the speech. Today these polls have flipped. According to Gallup, Obama now leads Hillary again nationally, within the margin of error.

Another reason Obama’s numbers may have bounced is because of Gov. Bill Richardson’s endorsement. I don’t usually get worked up over endorsements unless it comes from a real political player like Al Gore, but what makes Richardson’s endorsement important is that he’s Latino, a segment of the population where Obama is weak, and he’s a Clinton loyalist. Richardson’s greatest political victories came through Bill Clinton who appointed him to several key positions including Secretary of Energy and Ambassador to the UN.

Richardson, a super delegate, even went to the Clinton’s Superbowl party this year. His vote was considered by many to be firmly in Hillary’s pocket. Yet this savvy political move (An Obama-Richardson ticket anyone?), perhaps came directly because of Obama’s speech, a speech that Richardson claimed helped him to see that, “you [Obama] are a once-in-a-lifetime leader.”

All of this is snowballing into tremendous problem for the Clinton camp. Obama’s reversal of the Wright scandal has shattered Hillary’s ‘kitchen-sink’ strategy. If Wright’s incendiary words couldn’t stick with voters there doesn’t seem anything left that will? Barring some epic breakdown by Barack, there isn’t any plausible reason why he can’t take the Democratic nomination.

Everything that Clinton would need to make her case at the convention—a lead in elected delegates or a lead in popular vote—just doesn’t seem mathematically realistic, and knowing that Obama supporters will be less likely to vote for Hillary than Hillary supporters to vote for Obama, and knowing that this in-fighting only strengthens McCain, it just doesn’t make sense for the DNC to keep this up for long. If Clinton wins Pennsylvania by anything less than ten points look for Hillary to step down. Even her own team will know when the Empress has no clothes.

And speaking of McCain, he had a good week just because no one was really paying attention to him. His poll numbers have surged more than the actual surge. His favorable rating has burst to 67% and he’s now winning slightly in the national polls over Clinton and Obama. I really hope he’s enjoying it though, because his bubble is bound to burst. The media hasn’t pressed McCain about his own Rev. Wright—John Hagee—and recently, contradicting McCain’s statement that Hagee gave McCain his endorsement unsolicited, Hagee told the New York Times that McCain sought his endorsement. Furthermore, twice this week, while on his tour of the Middle East, McCain announced that Iran is funding Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

This is a patently false statement, one that even McCain’s BFF Joe Lieberman tried to correct, and yet McCain repeated that statement and the media refused to hold his feet to the fire. This is the type of lackadaisical reporting that landed us in Iraq in the first place and one that will be challenged fiercely come the summer. And yet one wonders who would be the best person to challenge these statements. Would it be the woman who’s claimed that McCain is qualified to be commander and chief, or the man who’s been against the war, and McCain, from the beginning? I would say let the voters decide, but it seems they already have…

Things to look forward to this week: Hillary will try to have her version of ‘The Speech’ today as she plans to gain some momentum by outlining a new policy in Philadelphia. Questions about the re-count in Michigan and Florida that have been floating around will be finalized. McCain will deflect attention from Iraq by addressing the economy.