Kid Gloves

Hillary's premise for staying in the race has been the expectation that she can continue to win enough of the big states like Pennsylvania to cast some doubt as to Barack's viability in a national campaign. There was a moment there when it seems that he was becoming a niche candidate, with wins in states with large black populations actually working against the sense of Barack as a legitimate contender. But with polls in Pennsylvania indicating that Hillary's big lead is evaporating, her hopes for her heading Barack off at the pass are disappearing as well.

All this because voters have been reminded that Hillary is, after all, a Clinton. The latest update was last week's Bosnia story, a striking blow to the heart of Hillary's credibility as a public figure. If she could so graphically misrepresent reality without offering so much as an explanation - ie, sorry, it wasn't Bosnia where I was facing sniper fire, it was Little Rock - then all of her claims regarding her 35 years of fighting for regular folk can reasonably be assumed to be a fairytale too.

The morale? Voters want a candidate they can believe in and trust. Which may spell trouble in the long term for Barack Obama. While Barack's lies feel small compared to the overall positive feeling that voters have for him (can you believe his position in national polls has suffered no longterm damage as a result of the Pastor Wright debacle?), over time we can expect the autumn fisticuffs to tarnish this shine.

But will we have to wait until the fall for Barack to face an aggressive opponent?

Hillary has not been able to risk upsetting her party by putting the Wright controversy under the sort of microscope it deserves. Not yet, anyway. But the other trend that is damaging Mrs. C is the feeling in the party that this fight is going on for too long, and that the sooner the rug can be pulled out from under Hillary the better.

This is part of Barack's pitch to the voters of Pennsylvania. Vote for me and put an end to this misery. The perception that the party is being damaged by prolonging the race is a pull on voters' sympathies, and voter patience with Hillary is being undermined by the Bosnia story.

But will Hillary go away quietly? If Pennsylvania continues to head in the other direction, Hillary will be faced with the reality that her premise for staying in the race is also dissipating. At that time, does Hillary go quietly, or does she start going after Barack's shortcomings in a manner more reminiscent of a general election?

It may just be better for Barack if she does. Once aired and re-aired, folks won't have much interest in having another whiff of Barack's dirty laundry come the fall.

The best thing for John McCain will be if Pastor Wright is forgotten about for the next 5 or 6 months, only to reappear, with new tape and renewed shock value, as voters are making their final decision on who to vote for in November.