In a blink of an eye, the media has jumped ship from the Obama campaign and become a crucial Clinton ally, pressing just the message -- that Obama is a likely loser in the general election -- that Hillary and her allies have been promoting for the past six weeks.
The new tenor of media coverage is visible almost everywhere, from Politico, Time and The New Republic to The Washington Post and The New York Times.
For Hillary, the shift is a potential lifesaver as she struggles to keep her head above water; without it, she would, metaphorically, drown.
Until now, she, her husband, and her campaign aides have been trying, with little success, to make the case that Obama has potentially fatal flaws. For the first time, reporters working for magazines, newspapers and web sites have abruptly decided that she might well be right, and the results for Obama have been brutal:
The first hard punch was thrown by my friend and colleague John Judis in a widely distributed piece on The New Republic web site, filed sometime around 3AM Wednesday, seven hours after polls closed in Pennsylvania. In the article titled, "The Next McGovern," Judis wrote:
"[I]f you look at Obama's vote in Pennsylvania, you begin to see the outlines of the old George McGovern coalition that haunted the Democrats during the '70s and '80s, led by college students and minorities....Its ideology is very liberal. Whereas in the first primaries and caucuses, Obama benefited from being seen as middle-of-the-road or even conservative, he is now receiving his strongest support from voters who see themselves as 'very liberal.'...[H]e is going to have trouble in Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia, where he will once again be faced by a large white working class vote. He can still win the nomination and lose these primaries. Pennsylvania was the last big delegate prize. But if Obama doesn't find a way now to speak to these voters, he is going to have trouble winning that large swath of states from Pennsylvania through Missouri in which a Democrat must do well to gain the presidency."
Joe Klein, in his weekly column for Time magazine, noted that Clinton has taken a beating,
"But that was nothing compared with the damage done to Obama, who entered
the primary as a fresh breeze and left it stale, battered and embittered - still the mathematical favorite for the nomination but no longer the darling of his party [ Klein could have added, 'no longer the darling of the press.'] In the course of six weeks, the American people learned that he was a member of a church whose pastor gave angry, anti-American sermons, that he was "friendly" with an American terrorist who had bombed buildings during the Vietnam era, and that he seemed to look on the ceremonies of working-class life - bowling, hunting, churchgoing and the fervent consumption of greasy food - as his anthropologist mother might have, with a mixture of cool detachment and utter bemusement."
Politico's Mike Allen describes the changed approach to Obama as a "paradigm shift," specifically citing the "seminal" [Allen is not one to mute his compliments] report of former colleague Chris "The Fix" Cillizza on WashingtonPost.com, the headline of which undoubtedly brought tears of joy to the Clinton campaign: "How Clinton Can Win It."
"A path does exist for Clinton," Cillizza wrote. "The best argument Clinton has at her disposal right now is that Obama cannot win over blue collar, white voters who have been hit hard by the economic slowdown and are looking for a politician to look out for them."
The critical chorus is even resonating across the Atlantic. Under the headline "The Democrats must admit it: Obama would lose to McCain," London Times columnist Anatole Kaletsky wrote: "the conclusion would be fairly obvious, were it not for the political correctness that makes it almost impossible for American politicians or commentators to express such a view: Mr Obama may by unable to carry large industrial states with socially conservative white working-class populations simply because of his race."
The New York Times, never so declarative in a news story, poses the issues as questions. Adam Nagourney writes, "Why has he (Obama) been unable to win over enough working-class and white voters to wrap up the Democratic nomination? ... Is the Democratic Party hesitating about race as it moves to the brink of nominating an African-American to be president?"
While Nagourney raised questions reinforcing doubts about Obama's credibility as a general election candidate, his colleague at the New York Times, Patrick Healy was one of the few reporters to write favorably of the Obama bid in light of recent criticisms. Healy wrote:
"[E]xit polling and independent political analysts offer evidence that Mr. Obama could do just as well as Mrs. Clinton among blocs of voters with whom he now runs behind. Obama advisers say he also appears well-positioned to win swing states and believe he would have a strong shot at winning traditional Republican states like Virginia."
Healy, however, is the exception. While reluctant to speak on the record, Clinton supporters are very pleased with the overall switch in tone of the coverage, particularly the willingness of the media to explore the question of whether Obama could be a loser in November.
The Clinton critique of Obama, and now the critique of much of the press, was further reinforced from another source, Republican strategist Karl Rove, writing in the Wall Street Journal:
"Mr. Obama is befuddled and angry about the national reaction to what are clearly accepted, even commonplace truths in San Francisco and Hyde Park. How could anyone take offense at the observation that people in small-town and rural American are 'bitter' and therefore 'cling' to their guns and their faith, as well as their xenophobia? Why would anyone raise questions about a public figure who, for only 20 years, attended a church and developed a close personal relationship with its preacher who says AIDS was created by our government as a genocidal tool to be used against people of color, who declared America's chickens came home to roost on 9/11, and wants God to damn America? Mr. Obama has a weakness among blue-collar working class voters for a reason."
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