The Note: Wrighting the Ship

Why did Obama let it get to this point? "After Obama's uncategorical repudiation yesterday of the man who presided at his wedding and the baptism of his daughters, voters and other political observers will inevitably wonder what took so long -- and how Obama could have misjudged someone to whom he was very close," Peter Canellos writes in The Boston Globe.

"In political terms, this was a 3 a.m. phone call that went into voice mail," Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin writes.

"As definitive as Obama seemed, there are still questions about his relationship with Wright," National Review's Byron York writes. "Is it really plausible for Obama to say that he did not hear a steady stream of such stuff coming from Wright's pulpit in the last 20 years?"

Newsweek's Richard Wolffe saw it as Obama's "Sister Souljah" moment -- going farther even than Bill Clinton did in 1992 in making clear the limits of his tolerance: Throughout the campaign, "nothing came close to the emotions on display at the back of a sports arena in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Tuesday," Wolffe writes.

"The long relationship between the pastor and the politician is forever changed. And Obama has had to spend yet another day trying to regain the narrative of his campaign."

The Philadelphia speech served its purpose -- but Wright shifted the terrain since then. "Obama's public denouncement of the retired pastor stands in stark contrast to a speech on race the candidate delivered just last month," ABC's David Wright reports.

"Obama's strong words are a high stakes gamble by his campaign to control a spreading political firestorm. . . . Obama's connection to Wright runs much deeper than Clinton's to Sister Souljah."

It's the superdelegates' concerns that are themselves much deeper in the wake of the bizarre media tour launched by Rev. Wright. "He was speaking most directly to 300 or so remaining undecided Democratic superdelegates, the party regulars who are likely to determine the eventual nominee -- and who have become increasingly concerned in recent days that the Democratic frontrunner lacks the fire and the fight he will need to prevail in November," Time's Karen Tumulty writes.

Can you remember the last time Obama had a message? Wright "overshadowed campaign events that were aimed at connecting better with senior citizens and blue-collar whites," Tumulty writes.

"Before Obama can put Wright behind him, he had to put himself back at the center of his own campaign," Slate's John Dickerson writes. "That's what today was about -- taking control of his destiny."

Matthew Dowd offers suggestions for Obama at "Return to the unconventional and unexpected. Take some risks on events and don't worry about Indiana and North Carolina stops. . . . Start running the general election campaign now and target ads at McCain. . . . . Go back to having fun."

Watch the expectations game: "He's having to overcome a great deal," one political analyst, Philip Goff, tells the Indianapolis Star. "If he wins Indiana, it will be quite amazing."

But could there be a backlash? "He's caught in a racial vise not of his own making," Ron Walters, a University of Maryland political scientist, tells USA Today's Kathy Kiely and David Jackson.

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