Barack Obama had a good weekend. For starters, he opened a lead of 84 pledged delegates and 200,000 popular votes by crushing Hillary Clinton in five straight contests–Nebraska (68-32 percent), Louisiana (57-36), Washington State (68-31) and the U.S. Virgin Islands (90-8) on Saturday, followed by a surprisingly sizable win in Maine (59-40) on Sunday.

He beat Bill Clinton to win best spoken audiobook at yesterday’s Grammy Awards. And he had the pleasure of watching as Clinton removed campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle (also chief liaison to Latinos) from her team–a sure sign that staffers and supporters are worried about Hillary’s wobbly bid.

The good news will probably continue for the next ten days; Obama leads by at least 17 points in each of Tuesday’s Potomac Primary battles (Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.), and is expected to win in liberal, educated Wisconsin and his birth state of Hawaii a week later.

All of which got me thinking about the general election. Sure, the Illinois senator is a long way from clinching the Democratic nomination. First he has to survive Ohio and Texas on March 4 and Pennsylvania on April 22–states that are rich in delegates and far more favorable to Clinton than February’s Obama-friendly face-offs.

Even then, the fight will probably go all the way to the convention in August (the math isn’t rocket science). But if Obama does get the nod, I’m starting to wonder if he might find it tougher to peel off Republicans than his rhetoric (and the current polling) suggests–especially against John McCain.

Reading through the comments on “He’s One of Us Now,” a story I wrote for this week’s dead-tree magazine, I was reminded yesterday of a pesky little problem that could hurt him next November: the Muslim rumor. (MORE)


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