April 29, 2008 — -- It's crunch time on the campaign trail, and candidates can't afford any mistakes or for any controversial friends to suddenly reappear.
Some speculate the re-emergence of Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is turning off white voters. Democratic sources tell ABC News that Wright is unquestionably worrying superdelegates about Obama's electability.
On Monday at the National Press Club, Wright was defiant, embracing some of the most controversial items he has said.
"Jesus said, You cannot do terrorism on other people and not expect it to come back on you," Wright said, defending his controversial sermon in which he said Sept. 11, 2001, was an example of chickens coming home to roost, in Malcolm X's memorable phrase. "Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright 'bombastic' principles."
On "Good Morning America" today, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested the controversial former pastor may be deliberately trying to hurt the Illinois senator.
Saying that Wright "went out of his way to weaken Obama" during Monday's address at the National Press Club, Gingrich told Barbara Walters, "I think Rev. Wright has a greater interest in his self-importance."
Gingrich described Wright as "hard-line anti-American," and said "if Rev. Wright continues to talk that the burden that Sen. Obama carries becomes bigger and bigger. "
Republicans in Mississippi and North Carolina have cut TV ads using Wright against Democrats who have endorsed Obama, guilty by association with a different association.
In an interview with WTVD-TV in North Carolina, Monday, Obama said, "I think the average North Carolinian's gonna say that doesn't make much sense. And, you know, I think it's the old kind of politics."
What's still unclear is whether that argument will rule the day for the roughly 300 superdelegates who still remain uncommitted and who will decide who the nominee will ultimately be.
Many of them are politicians -- heavyweight superdelegates such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They want a strong candidate on the top of the Democratic ticket come November.
"I think mostly superdelegates want to understand whether or not the association between Sen. Obama and Rev. Wright will damage Obama in a fundamental way," said Democratic strategist Tad Devine.
It's the reason the nine contests left in the Democratic fight to the finish are so key.
Obama just added another superdelegate endorsement to his collection by way of New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingamin. This morning at North Carolina State University, Sen. Hillary Clinton won the backing of North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley.
Easley formally expressed his support saying that there was "nothing I love more than a strong powerful woman" and concluded saying Clinton "makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy".
On Monday, on the campaign trail in North Carolina, Clinton underscored that she's a fighter.
"Now, I know there are some people who say, 'Oh my goodness, she is tough.' Well, if you'd had my life you'd be tough, too," Clinton said.
It's tough luck for Clinton that Obama's new endorsement from Bingamin brings him to 15 senatorial superdelegates to her 13. He has 106 elected officials -- senators, congressman and governors -- to her 94. And since Super Tuesday, he's picked up 85 superdelegates, while she's gotten 14.
Even since the Wright story exploded on "GMA" March 13, he's picked up 45 superdelegates to her 11.
To a rally of 18,000 in Chapel Hill, N.C., Monday night, Obama said the personal attacks against him aren't working.
"You know, now that we have been successful as we are moving forward, you can see my opponents realize they don't have a better argument so what they are now saying is well 'I don't know about Obama, you know we gotta know more about him, and you know he doesn't wear a flag pin, his former pastor said something. … We don't know what his values are, we don't know if he is patriotic, he's got a funny name, you know, sounds Muslim.' … That is what has dominated political coverage over the last several weeks."