Presume for a moment that the Jeremiah Wright controversies (plural now) would have eventually made national headlines.* For Barack Obama or Democrats more generally, when would it have been best for this story to break?

Consider four possibilities:

  • (a) Last autumn, before Obama rose up to catch Hillary Clinton;
  • (b) this spring, after he had built his delegate and popular vote leads over her;
  • (c) early this summer, after he presumably clinched the nomination but a few months before the Democratic National Convention; or
  • (d) at or anytime after the DNC convention and before the general election.

Certainly, the ranking would have to be (from best to worst) c/b/a/d if you’re a Democrat in general and want to win in November, with maybe a/c/b/d if you’re a Clinton-supporting Democrat or perhaps c/b/d/a if you’re an Obama-supporting Democrat. Point is: Other than breaking in early summer, if Obama people and generic Democrats had a choice, having the story break now is better than having it break before his campaign took flight late last fall, or having it break, say, in October, right before the general election.

It’s still a story that has damaged his candidacy. But it could have been a lot worse, at least timing-wise.

*P.s.: This, by the way, is far easier to presume than, say, that John Hagee would headlines equivalent in number or significance. Indeed, a recent Media Matters for America analysis shows that the number of media stories about Hagee—who like Jerry Falwell any number of other conservative wackos blames Americans for September 11—is about one for every 12 about Wright. But there’s no such thing as conservative media bias, riiiight.

--Tom Schaller

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