In March, Barack Obama quickly responded to the bubbling controversy over statements made by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. He was lauded by pundits and politicos from both sides of the aisle for his broad speech on race and America at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on March 18
The goal of that speech was to put the Wright issue to bed – address it head on, be done with it and get back to campaigning in Pennsylvania. And it seemed like that strategy just might work out for him, especially since Rev. Wright was staying below the radar and cancelling public appearances that may have added fuel to the fire.
Over six weeks later and Rev. Wright is still in the news and his re-emergence on the public stage this weekend will almost certainly ensure that he stays in there through the May 6 primaries in Indiana and North Carolina.
On Friday night, Obama's former pastor sits down with PBS' Bill Moyers in his first interview since the controversy erupted. In excerpts of the interview that were released today, Wright said that the soundbites were not the whole story and that the people who heard his entire sermon "understand the communication perfectly."
"When something is taken like a sound bite for a political purpose and put constantly over and over again, looped in the face of the public. That's not a failure to communicate. Those who are doing that are communicating exactly what they want to do, which is to paint me as some sort of fanatic or as the learned journalist from the New York Times called me, a 'wackadoodle.'"
Moyers asked Wright how he reacted when he heard Obama's speech in Philadelphia. "He's a politician, I'm a pastor. We speak to two different audiences. And he says what he has to say as a politician. I say what I have to say as a pastor. But they're two different worlds," Wright said. "I do what I do. He does what politicians do. So that what happened in Philadelphia where he had to respond to the sound bytes, he responded as a politician."
Wright has two more upcoming public appearances. He is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at the NAACP Detroit Freedom Fund diner on Sunday and speaks at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday, focusing on the role of faith in the public square, ABC News' Tahman Bradley reports.
The North Carolina Republican party is the first to seize on controversial Wright clips and roll out an ad including them. Whether it actually will ever air on television remains to be seen, but the mileage the party is getting out of the free media on cable and internet may be better than any small buy on local television.
The controversial ad targets the two Tar Heel State Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Richard Moore and Beverly Purdue and features a clip from Wright in 2001 saying "God bless America. No, no, no. God damn America."
ABC News' Bret Hovell, Tahman Bradley, and Teddy Davis report that the North Carolina GOPers will go forward with plans to air the ad starting next Tuesday despite a Thursday claim by a senior McCain adviser that the ad would not air.
"I don't know where this is coming from but this ad is scheduled to go on the air early next week as we have always said," Brent Woodcox, a spokesman for the North Carolina GOP, told ABC News.
Charlie Black, a top adviser to Arizona Sen. John McCain, maintained Thursday to ABC News and Time Magazine that the North Carolina Republican Party was not going to air its controversial ad.
"The ad has been pulled. I don't think it ever ran, except on the web," Black told Time.
Now that Pennsylvania is just a shrinking image in the rearview mirror, there are several questions that are dogging Obama as the race turns toward Indiana and Pennsylvania?
- Why can't he close the deal and seal the nomination?
- How big of a problem is it that he keeps losing to Hillary Clinton among white voters, seniors, women, less-educated voters and lower income voters?
- What role is race playing in the Democratic nomination fight?
With the North Carolina GOP ad and the upcoming public appearances of Rev. Wright, the last question is one that is certain to be picked over until May 6.
ABC News' Polling Director Gary Langer took a look at the Pennsylvania exit primary to answer what role race is playing in the nomination battle and reports that there may be warning signs in for Democrats in the general election if Obama is the nominee.
In a general election matchup of Obama and McCain, among white voters who call race an important factor, just 54 percent said they would support Obama and the rest either went for McCain (27 percent) or said they wouldn't vote.
But Langer also notes: "We should be careful not to overanalyze this result. The number of whites who called race important was small – 13 percent of Pennsylvania voters – and the net effect of the differential is to cost Obama 2 percentage points of total vote, while giving McCain around a point and a half."
On the campaign front. . .
-- 6:15 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Kokomo, IN
-- 4:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Fort Wayne, IN
-- 8:30 am ET: Attends event with voters, Jacksonville, NC
-- 1:15 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Bloomington, IN
-- 6:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Gary, IN
-- 8:00 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, East Chicago, IN
-- 10:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, North Bend, OR
As for the Republicans. . .
-- 3:00 pm ET: Addresses college class, Little Rock, AK
-- 3:45 pm ET: Holds media availability, Little Rock, AK
At the White House and Beyond. . .
-- 8:45 am ET: Signs the Presidential Proclamation in Honor of Malaria Awareness Day, Washington, DC
-- 11:00 am ET: Visits Northwest Boys and Girls Club, Hartford, CT
-- 1:25 pm ET: Attends David Cappiello for Congress and Connecticut Victory 2008 luncheon, South Kent, CT (closed press)
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY
-- 1:30 pm ET: Delivers remarks at reception for Rep. Jeff Miller and NRCC, Fort Walton Beach, FL
POLITICAL NEWS STORIES ON ABCNEWS.COM
ABC News' Bret Hovell, Tahman Bradley and Teddy Davis: N.C. GOP Refutes McCain Adviser on Wright Ad LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Rev. Wright Defends Sermons, Self in First Interview LINK
ABC News' Rick Klein: Why Can't Barack Obama Close the Deal? LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Reid, Pelosi, Dean May Push Uncommitted Superdelegates to Decide No Later than July 1 LINK
ABC News' John Hendren: Secret Service Protection for McCain, Months After Dems LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Is Obama McGovern? Are Clinton's Negatives 'All Out There'? LINK
ABC News' Gary Langer: Is It Age? LINK
ABC News' Bret Hovell and Russell Goldman: McCain Doesn't Like N.C. Ad But Can't "Enforce My Will" LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Orrin Hatch's Song for John McCain LINK
POLITICAL VIDEO ON ABCNEWS.COM
Is race a factor in Obama's failure to lock up the nomination? LINK
Can Obama Seal the Deal?
The Illinois senator continues to try and rally rural and blue-collar voters. LINK
Pushing for Next Primary
The Democratic candidates turn to voters in Indiana and North Carolina. LINK
Hasselbeck vs. the Ladies of the View
Co-host argues that votes should not be based on candidates' sex or race. LINK