A Week Later: Obama's Speech Revisited

Washington Matters

A Week Later: Obama's Speech Revisited

In the week since Barack Obama delivered his groundbreaking speech on race in America, his words -- and the controversial words of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright that prompted the speech -- have dominated the news. So what do we know now that we didn't know a week ago?


The Wright controversy hasn't derailed his run for the nomination. After suffering a hit in the polls, he's recovered somewhat and he's still the favorite to win the nomination. He benefited from the collapse of do-over voting plans in  

But the controversy is not going away. There is still plenty of criticism floating around the web and op-ed pages. That's why he took time out from his vacation in the Virgin Islands to comment about it in a radio interview. Voters in Pennsylvania will give it a thorough going over -- and that's good for Obama. The more it's discussed and debated now, the better. But it will still come back to dog him in a big way in the fall if he is the Democratic nominee.

So far, the speech has shored up support among those already backing him, while impressing a lot of pundits and historians. Many praised his candid and nuanced approach, his ability and willingness to tackle complex and controversial subjects and his courage for not taking the easy way out. Washington Post columnist David Broder said the speech showed that if elected president, he would use the bully pulpit of the presidency "to inform, educate and inspire people."


But Obama's opponents weren't swayed and insisted the speech was too clever by half for avoiding the key questions. Typical were columns by the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer who argued that Obama can't dodge responsibility for not parting ways with Wright a long time ago. 


The big unknown is how those in the middle will react. For the moment, that means blue collar whites in Pennsylvania, who will vote in the Democratic primary on April 22. Clinton still holds a double-digit lead in state polls. Obama is trying to cut it down, while already working to lower expectations by saying he just wants to get close. That's all he needs to do to maintain his delegate lead, assuming he does as well as expected in the other nine states voting between now and the end of mid June.