Barack Obama Gets Bogged Down

In the wake of Tuesday's Democratic primary wins for Hillary Clinton in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island, pundits are beginning to question the "inevitability" of Barack Obama, who as recently as just days ago seemed primed to knock Clinton out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Clinton's win and her slight 238-194 edge in superdelegates means she will stay in the race for at least another seven weeks until the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, while John McCain has locked down the Republican nomination, leaving him free to start his general election campaign.

Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray of the Washington Post posited Wednesday that this means Obama is now facing a two-front war against Hillary and McCain, stating:

Even before the polls opened, campaign officials were dreading an outcome that would keep Clinton (D-N.Y.) in the race at least through the Pennsylvania primary on April 22. Those seven weeks will cost Obama at least $10 million, and possibly much more, campaign aides say, as he battles a rejuvenated Clinton who will have every incentive to try to force him into a major mistake.

Obama aides also expect to take concentrated fire from McCain (Ariz.) and his Republican allies, who have already begun raising questions about the 46-year-old Democratic senator's credibility, authenticity, and even his patriotism.

For months before his victory in Iowa, doubters questioned whether Obama had the stomach to deliver the blows necessary to wear down Clinton's advantages. Now, the question is whether he can take a punch -- "and you know they will be coming," said former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack (D), a Clinton supporter.

The battle ahead may see Obama survive Clinton, only to be too bloodied to succeed in the general election against John McCain. Controversial associations, unforced errors, and radical positions are slowly catching up to him, and will lead to his inevitable defeat.

Troubling Relationships

The extortion and money laundering trial of fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko begun in Chicago earlier this week. Jury selection began Monday in Syrian-born Rezko's 24-count extortion and money laundering trial, a case expected to drag out at least three months, dogging Obama throughout a crucial time in the remaining Democratic primary season, and tarring his carefully-crafted message as an agent of change. There is no indication that Obama did anything directly illegal in his dealings with Rezko, but Rezko's assistance in a real estate deal for Obama's home and the extorted money Rezko donated to the Obama campaign -- since given to charity -- called into question Obama's judgment and put on display his unsettling naivety.

And though the line of attack is perhaps unfair, the "Muslim" whispering campaign against him is only exacerbated by his passing relationship to William Ayers, best known as an unrepentant terrorist leader of the 1960s radical group the Weather Underground. Ayers was part of a left-wing terrorist organization that bombed both the United States Capitol and the Pentagon among other targets, and Ayers refuses to apologize for his actions even today. Ayers was on the board of directors of the progressive Woods Fund with Obama from 1999 until 2002, and an Obama supporter has described their relationship as friendly. For those willing to question Obama's patriotism, even this slight association with a known terrorist may cause his support to falter.

Obama's pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., has also been a point of concern for some, running a congregation of the Church of Christ that even people in his own camp feel is too Afrocentric, perhaps to the point of alienating some white voters.

Even Obama's spouse, Michelle Obama, has become problematic for her husband as a glum Eeyore of a perspective First Spouse. In recent weeks, she has managed to cause increasing controversy as she makes one seemingly disloyal verbal gaffe after another, from intoning she was not proud to be an American until her husband began his campaign for the presidency, to stating (falsely) that in America, "living has gotten progressively worse since I was a little girl", to stating that America is "just downright mean." Michelle Obama's life is a remarkable example of living the American Dream to the fullest, and yet, she has found ways to squander the natural advantage that is her life's story.

By themselves, none of these relationships should be enough to significantly damage the Obama campaign, but taken together, they start to build a picture of a candidate who too closely associates with radical ideologies, a perception already being shaped by both the Clinton and McCain campaigns.

Unforced Errors

Monday saw Obama face a combative press corps for the first time, and a seemingly bewildered Obama collapsed under rapid fire questions concerning his relationship with Rezko, and apparent deception about a campaign aide's conversation with Canadian officials over Obama's statements on NAFTA. Sensing weakness, the media pounced. Obama, known for his soaring oratory in prepared speeches and friendly "townhall" meetings, looked inexperienced, evasive, and vulnerable. Obama has largely sustained his campaign based upon perception and "hope" until recently as he isolated himself from the press. Now his presumed inevitability is tarnished, never to return to its former luster. As a newly critical press begins to more closely monitor his campaign, look for chinks in his armor to steadily widen.

Radical Positions

Does the Bible sanction abortion and gay marriage? Most Americans would answer in the negative, but this past Sunday, Barack Obama tried to invoke Jesus Christ's Sermon on the Mount to support his positions in favor of abortion and same-sex civil unions, Biblical interpretations that are far outside the mainstream of theological thought.

Obama's past positions on gun control -- he favored an outright ban on all semi-automatic firearms and handguns, and does not explicitly recognize a right to self-defense -- are steadily becoming a problem, and his campaign refuses to answer direct questions posed to them about his current stance on the issue.

His proposals to raise Social Security taxes on both individuals and businesses, eliminate the middle class tax cuts of the Bush administration, implement programs that would increase spending by the federal government to an estimated $278 billion per year, and support a trillion-dollar "global tax" plan to give American tax dollars to foreign nations are perhaps far more than Americans worried about a looming recession are willing to bear.

End Game

Freed of primary challengers after clinching the Republican nomination Tuesday night, John McCain is now free to hammer on Barack Obama's substance -- or presumed lack of it -- until the general election, a tack that the Hillary Clinton campaign is also playing at least until the Democratic contest in Pennsylvania in late April.

Obama may perhaps survive this two-front assault to escape with the Democratic nomination later this summer, but even if he does, he will find himself too isolated, too fragile, and too damaged to defeat McCain in the general election.

Barack Obama will not be the next president of the United States. In the end, he promises the kind of changes most American voters will decide they can't believe in.

Bob Owens blogs at Conservative Yankee.