The Note: Wright's Stuff

To the iconic scenes that dance in our mind's eye in this campaign -- alongside Hillary Clinton dodging sniper fire and Mitt Romney hunting big game -- we add another classic:

President Barack Obama has just been inaugurated, and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is chasing him down, shouting his middle name -- with Louis Farrakhan at his side, for company.

Whether this is the vision foremost in the minds of superdelegates -- or if it's more like one of President John McCain, stealing a victory in what should be a lock of a Democratic year -- are really the only questions that matter at this point in this wild race.

Every passing day seems to give superdelegates new reasons to be nervous about their frontrunner -- and puts more pressure on Obama to show that voters don't (and won't) see Wright's visage and flee.

"Should it become necessary in the months from now to identify the moment that doomed Obama's presidential aspirations, attention is likely to focus on the hour between nine and ten this morning at the National Press Club," Dana Milbank writes in his Washington Post column.

"It was then that Wright, Obama's longtime pastor, reignited a controversy about race from which Obama had only recently recovered -- and added lighter fuel."

Obama's challenge -- with key contests a week away, Pennsylvania's reverberations still being felt, and the good Reverend Wright apparently unable to shut his esteemed trap -- is to show that voters can see Obama as distinct from Wright, no matter how sharply his former pastor's words undercut his campaign message.

"As Obama struggles to close out his party's nomination, his message of hope and reconciliation on race and politics has a competing framework, that of the far less conciliatory rhetoric of Wright," Gannett's Chuck Raasch writes.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign builds on its frame on Tuesday, with a top-of-the-morning endorsement from Gov. Mike Easley, D-N.C., well-timed for a week before the state's critical primary.

"An Easley endorsement would be the first endorsement for Clinton from a major North Carolina political figure," per the Raleigh News & Observer.

"Easley does not have the same sort of political machine that Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania used to help deliver votes for Clinton in that state. But Easley is popular with rural, white, blue-collar Democrats, the sort of voters that Clinton has successfully targeted in wins in Pennsylvania and Ohio."

"Other superdelegates may have been waiting for his cue, said Harrison Hickman, a Democratic pollster who most recently advised former Sen. John Edwards," Mark Johnson reports in the Charlotte Observer.

How does Wright fit into this? "Democratic sources tell ABC News [Wright is] unquestionably worrying superdelegates about Obama's electability," ABC's Jake Tapper reported on "Good Morning America" Tuesday. "That's why these next nine contests are so key."

This would be bigger than Easley -- if it happens, and it may not even have to happen to have already happened: Whither John Edwards -- and, of course, his wife? "Mrs. Clinton's supporters, in particular, are anxious for the Edwardses to speak up about whom they support," Julie Bosman reports in The New York Times.

The sentence that will set tongues a-wagging: "Mrs. Edwards, her husband's closest and most trusted adviser, has made it clear that she favors Mrs. Clinton; aides said she had recently tried to persuade Mr. Edwards to do the same," Bosman writes.

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