The five-year old video showing President Barack Obama talking bluntly about race, Hurricane Katrina and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is a source of worry for a campaign that’s already on a knife’s edge over Wednesday night’s high-stakes debate in Denver and thinning leads in national polls.
Obama’s aides and top Democratic officials projected an air of nonchalance and nothing-to-see-here Tuesday night as Fox News and Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller promoted the 2007 speech at Hampton University as a racial rant with the capacity to change the game. But the reelection campaign is concerned especially by the possibility of re-litigating Wright’s role in Obama’s life — a storyline long seen in Obamaland as among the most damaging to the president.
That’s made even stronger by the new focus on the tape coming at a key moment in the run-up to the debate — timing that could become a distraction for the campaign as the president prepares to take the stage.
The larger threat posed by the video isn’t its content — many of the statements Obama makes have been made by the president or other Democrats — but its capacity to stop the campaign’s accelerating momentum. Taken in combination with several other pre-debate problems for Obama — from tightening polls in Florida and Wisconsin and Vice President Joe Biden’s declaration Tuesday that the middle class has been “buried” over the last four years — the tape could be part of a movement that might make the race not the blowout many pundits have been predicting.