Tue, May 06, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Republicans watch Obama’s woes with glee

ROCKY PATCHBarack Obama has had to repudiate the rantings of Reverend Jeremiah Wright and face questions about his relationship with an indicted Chicago businessman

AP , WASHINGTON

Republicans can hardly contain their glee as they watch Barack Obama battle through a rocky period. And why should they?

Nothing else is breaking the Republican Party’s way this year.

But, at least now, the Democrats’ political phenomenon is tarnished, and, if he defeats Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, will enter the general election campaign not only bruised and battered — but also carrying baggage as he faces Republican John McCain.

“We’ve had a rough couple of weeks. I won’t deny that,” Obama said on Friday.

The Illinois senator has repeatedly had to address — and repudiate — the ranting of his bombastic former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Obama has continued facing questions about his relationship with indicted Chicago businessman Antoin “Tony” Rezko. The candidate’s patriotism has been questioned. So has his readiness.

On the eve of a critical Pennsylvania primary last month, Obama caught flak for claiming that small-town folks are bitter and thus cling to guns and religion. Then he turned in a lackluster debate performance. He ended up losing that primary to Clinton in part because he did not attract enough white, working-class voters.

Now he finds himself in the midst of competitive contests in two more states. Losses today in Indiana and North Carolina would further weaken him. Even if he manages to hold off Clinton in those and the final primary contests, Obama would essentially limp to the nomination.

“The bark is stripped off him a little bit,” said Reed Galen, a Republican who worked on US President George W. Bush’s campaigns. “Are the folks on the Republican side of the aisle happy to let Hillary do that? Absolutely.”

Obama’s troubles are raising questions about why he can not seem to put away Clinton after a 16-month primary fight and whether Obama — in his first hard-fought race — is prepared not only to go up against McCain this fall but also to withstand the rigors of the White House.

Republicans hope Obama will be damaged goods come the general election and McCain will have a stronger shot at hanging onto the White House in an extraordinarily difficult political environment.

Most Americans disapprove of Bush’s job performance and think the country is on the wrong track.

The Republican Party now sees a glimmer of light — a variety of Obama vulnerabilities they can try to exploit if he is the nominee.

One prominent Democrat who backs Clinton recognized as much.

Last week, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh raised the possibility that the Republicans will use Obama’s association with Wright to try to destroy his character in a general election as the pro-Republican group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth did to Democrat John Kerry in 2004.

“I’m sure the far right will be out there trying to do the whole ‘Swift Boat’ thing,” Bayh said.

“Each time that Clinton racks up a victory in these blue-collar-type states, it shows that Obama’s really losing the Reagan Democrats, which gives Republicans great comfort and a great strategy — go after those Reagan Democrats,” said John Feehery, a Republican who formerly worked for then-House speaker Dennis Hastert.

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