What should have been a good week for Barack Obama has turned into one of the worst of his campaign.
Despite winning the Mississippi primary and increasing his lead in convention delegates, he was thrown off stride by dealings with a former fundraiser and inflammatory remarks by his one-time pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, that are getting wide play on YouTube and TV including "Not God Bless America. God Damn America."
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Obama worked hard Friday night on cable television news programs, trying to distance himself from Wright's remarks. On Fox he called them "completely unacceptable and inexcusable."
Today, campaigning in Plainfield, Ind., he said Wright never made incendiary statements in his presence.
"But if all I knew was those statements that I saw on television, I would be shocked," he said.
ABC News political consultant Mark Halperin, also of Time Magazine, said Obama had to go on the offensive, considering how hard his campaign was hit by the negative coverage.
"It was possible that this controversy was going to engulf Obama's candidacy," Halperin said. "He had to speak out after what had been several days of very toxic and very dangerous coverage for his candidacy."
Obama also acknowledged in Chicago newspaper interviews that indicted businessman Tony Rezko raised more money for his past political campaigns than was previously known. Rezko had also advised him on buying a home.
Today on her campaign plane between stops in Pennsylvania Hillary Clinton gave a carefully calibrated response to Obama's problems.
"Well, I think there are a lot of questions and those questions deserve to be answered," she said.
The Obama campaign shot back that "it's the height of hypocrisy for Senator Clinton to demand the release of documents already on our Website while she... refuses to release (many of her) records."
Donna Brazile, a Democratic superdelegate and ABC News political consultant, said Obama was able to turn the attacks into an opportunity to show his mettle as a campaigner
"Sen. Obama has been accused of having a glass jaw. And what he tried to prove this week in responding to allegations about Tony Rezko as well as about the words of Rev. Jeremiah Wright is that he can not only take a punch, but he can give one back."
So, who gains the most from the latest exchange of charges and countercharges?
Quite possibly it is the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, who can sit back and watch the two Democrats try to increase each other's negative ratings.