Wednesday, April 30, 2008

North Carolina

As the aftershocks of Barack Obama's seismic denunciation of Jeremiah Wright continue to rattle the political landscape, new poll numbers show Hillary Clinton gaining on Obama in the Tarheel State.

Although a Rasmussen survey puts Obama's current lead as high as 14 percent, a SurveyUSA poll places it in single digits -- and just outside the margin or error -- at 5 percent. But, much like the Olympic scoring system that tosses the highest and lowest marks, the latest RealClearPolitics poll -- which averages several other polls -- pegs the spread at 10.3 percent in Obama's favor.

Take a look at the trend lines: Since April 7, when Clinton hit her low point of 31.5 percent, she's picked up 8.5 points while Obama has gained fewer than two.

It's crucial to remember that this poll is based on surveys that were completed either Sunday or Monday -- before Wright's spirited appearance before the National Press Club, and Obama's reaction to it, dominated cable news and political punditry for a day and a half.

If the next round of polls show Obama further weakened by Wright and the continuing controversy surrounding him, it could be the turning point in the race for the Democratic nomination. I know everyone is expecting Indiana to be the next battleground between these two candidates. But I think the results from North Carolina will tell us more about the long run: If he wins, it will show that he can absorb a tremendous hit (which this week has been in political terms) and retain viability. If he Obama can't pull off a win, and a comfortable win, in a state where he had a comfortable advantage just a week ago, it will spell real trouble for him with delegates and the electability argument the Clinton camp has been hammering for weeks.