Michael Barone

One reason is that Obama now has taken two diametrically opposed stands on the minister whose church he attended for 20 years, who married him and his wife and baptized their children, whose sermon inspired the title of his 2006 book, "The Audacity of Hope." On March 18, his response was: No, I cannot renounce my pastor. On April 29, his response was: Yes, I can.

Another and more important reason is that Obama's long association with a minister who says that the federal government manufactured the AIDS virus to kill black people, who likens American soldiers to terrorists, who celebrates Louis Farrakhan as a great man -- that long association tends to undermine the central theme of Obama's candidacy. Obama has presented himself since his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech as a leader who can unite America across political and racial divides. He presented himself to American voters, most of whom, I believe, think it would be a very good thing if we elected a black president. (I personally feel that way.) "In the blue states," Obama told the convention in Boston and the nation watching on TV, "we worship an awesome God." Now it turns out that the God worshipped in the Rev. Wright's church was "awesome" in ways we didn't expect.

The appeals of Obama and Hillary Clinton will be tested in the May 6 primaries in North Carolina and Indiana, the nation's 10th- and 15th-most populous states. The Real Clear Politics average of recent polling shows Obama's share of the two-candidate vote in North Carolina at 54 percent, down from 59 percent in April, and Clinton with 53 percent of the two-candidate vote in Indiana, where she trailed not long ago. A few pundits still are saying that Obama's choice of pastor is a distraction, an irrelevancy. But some voters, perhaps in the belief that a president's judgment and values have important consequences, don't agree.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM