Reverend Wright Will Be a Problem for Obama

His comments could hurt the candidate's appeal to young voters.

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Will the preachings of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright continue to be a problem for Barack Obama? The balance of opinion, after everyone has had a chance to digest Obama's March 18 speech, seems to be yes. Or at least that's how I read such varied commentators as ABC News's Jake Tapper, Charles Krauthammer, the New Republic's Dayo Opolade, University of Chicago Prof. Charles Lipson, the New York Daily News's Michael Goodwin, and the international treasure Mark Steyn in the Orange County Register.

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  • In my Creators Syndicate column this week, I look at these comments from a somewhat different view. In Democratic primaries and caucuses, Obama has been winning extraordinary percentages of support from black voters and young voters. His support from black voters is no surprise, though one must remember that back in November 2007, only four months ago, he was running behind Hillary Clinton among blacks in some polls in some contests. His support from young voters—from the millennial generation, to use the terminology of William Strauss and Neal Howe, rose to extraordinary levels much earlier in the cycle—and was reflected not just in polling results but in volunteer efforts and campaign contributions. I cited Morley Winograd and Michael Hais's very interesting, just-published book Millennial Makeover for the proposition that these young voters find racial conflict and anger very off-putting. Obama's portrait of himself as a leader who transcends race has been very attractive, I think, to millennial voters—responsible as much as anything else for their allegiance. To these same voters, the rantings of Reverend Wright are profoundly unattractive. Will the facts that Obama has been a member of Wright's congregation for more than 20 years and has named Wright as his spiritual mentor diminish Obama in millennials' eyes? I don't know, but it's a critically important question. If the answer is yes, then the chance that Democratic superdelegates will award the nomination to Hillary Clinton seems to rise.