Now West Virginia and Kentucky are not typical primary states. They, together with Arkansas, where Hillary Clinton was first lady for 12 years, were Obama's weakest states in this year's primaries. And some percentage of registered Democrats in these states have been voting Republican in recent presidential elections. Nevertheless, the negative verdict these voters render on Obama's honesty and his relationship with Wright is likely to be typical of some significant quantum of potential Democratic voters this year. And not just in states like West Virginia and Kentucky, which he will certainly lose, but in marginal states which he must carry in order to be elected.
I find confirmation from this in a recent focus group conducted for the Annenberg Public Policy Center by pollster Peter Hart (for whom I worked for seven years) of non-primary voters in Charlottesville, Va. As Hart and Alex Horowitz note in their analysis of reactions to Obama, "When asked to recount any two memories of the total presidential campaign so far, seven of the 12 participants cite Rev. Wright by name. So far, clips of Rev. Wright clearly are the one 'key defining moment' of this campaign."
Most reporters are liberals, whose circles of friends and acquaintances have included people with views not dissimilar to those of Wright or William Ayers, the unrepentant Weather Underground bomber with whom Obama served on a nonprofit board and at whose house his state Senate candidacy was launched. Such reporters don't find these views utterly repugnant or particularly noteworthy. But most American voters do. And they wonder whether a candidate who associates with such people agrees with them -- or disbelieve him when he says he doesn't.
Though most in the press won't admit it, that's a problem -- for the Obama candidacy and for the whole Democratic Party once it nominates him.