"The opera ain't over," the old phrase goes, "'til the fat lady sings." Well, Senator Clinton isn't fat, of course; svelte would be closer. She hasn't sung yet either--no reason why she should--and our long, interesting primary season wanders on.
Tomorrow it's Indiana and North Carolina. If Sen. Clinton loses both of those, a lot of people will say she should quit. Maybe she will. But she may very well not lose. Tomorrow's vote will be our first chance to see how badly Barack Obama's former pastor, the Wrighteous Reverend Jeremiah Wright, has damaged Obama.
Did Obama react swiftly enough, strongly enough to Wright's attacks? A new New York Times/CBS News poll offers some hints. In February 59% called Obama the stronger of the two Democratic candidates; 28% thought Clinton was. In the new poll the Times reports they are "essentially tied." On the other hand, 60% of the voters polled said they approved of the way Obama had handled the issue. A majority thought the news media had overcovered the story.
On the other, other hand--you can have three or four hands in politics--just 24% of the voters said they thought the Wright business would matter some or a lot to them in the fall, but 44% said it would matter some or a lot to "most people you know." The poll, by the way, has a margin of error of plus or minus four points for all voters, six points for Democrats only--a smaller sample, of course. And the poll showed Clinton and Obama each defeating John McCain in the fall by roughly similar margins.
So if you're for Obama, the poll gives you some cause for worry, some cause for good cheer. Tomorrow's vote will almost certainly tell us more. It's worth remembering that voters are less likely to be candid with pollsters when the questions are about race than when they're about something else.
My own hunch is that Rev. Wright, despite his essential outrageousness, probably has hurt Obama but probably not much. We will, as they always say, see.