Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama's general-election prospects are not looking so good lately, as he spins and equivocates his way through the final days of the presidential primaries.

With growing troubles among his party's Jewish voters, the prospective Democratic nominee has been retreating from his not-well-thought-out plan to meet with Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who wants to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth.

Obama ran into tough questioning last week during an appearance at a synagogue in Boca Raton, Fla., where Jewish voters were troubled by his intentions to meet, without preconditions, with leaders of rogue nations.

Earlier, in Democratic presidential debates, Obama stuck by his vow to meet with such leaders, despite criticism from Hillary Clinton that he was "naive" and inexperienced in national-security and foreign-policy matters.

Stung by recent attacks from Sen. John McCain for what the Arizonan called "reckless" and "dangerous" seat-of-the-pants policymaking, Obama complained on CNN last week about "this obsession with Ahmadinejad."

McCain's offensive was hurting the freshman senator, according to the GOP's internal polls, and Obama began a hasty retreat. "I would be willing to meet with Iranian leaders if we had done sufficient preparations for that meeting," he said.

Then he backtracked even further, saying he wasn't sure that "Ahmadinejad is the right person to meet with right now."

The hostile questioning at the synagogue only reinforced the sense in Obama's high command that his "ready to meet with anybody" exuberance in the high-stakes world of geopolitical gamesmanship was not playing well with Jewish voters or with the larger electorate, either.

"You talk to any Jewish activists, and they'll tell you he's having trouble with Jewish voters," a prominent Jewish leader told me last week.

"This is a big issue with the Jewish community. Jews are supporting Obama by the smallest percentage since Reagan," said another leader of an Israel advocacy group here.

McCain does not plan to let up his attacks on Obama's weakness on national-security issues. He will be speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in several weeks with plans to "up the ante."

Democratic national-security advisers were troubled, too, by Obama's unorthodox foreign-policy positions.

"I've been critical of Obama on that. Negotiating with dictators is a bad idea, but he would learn that in a year or so," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior defense analyst at the Brookings Institution.

"Obama is much less experienced than McCain, but he has to worry that people will think he is not ready for the job," O'Hanlon told me.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.