It wasn’t that long ago that Barack Obama was sitting pretty, destined to cruise to the nomination — practically worshiped as the savior of American politics. Now, although he’s still likely to win the Democratic-primary battle, he’s been wounded by scandals, been forced to go negative, and had his electability questioned. He’s even losing in the popular vote, if you believe Hillary Clinton’s math. (She counts Florida where the candidates didn’t campaign and Michigan where Obama wasn’t even on the ballot. She could also beat him in basketball if he was hog-tied on the sidelines, but would it be something to brag about?) What are the difficulties Obama faces going forward, and how can he prove himself and quiet his doubters?
• Howard Fineman has some suggestions for how Obama can repair his image, including describing more vividly his roots and defending the mainstream legitimacy of city opinion. He also needs to understand the importance of symbolism. [Newsweek]
• John McCormick reminds us that Obama’s elitism issue isn’t being helped by his demeanor on campaign trail, where he often seems like a college professor. [Chicago Tribune]
• Dan Balz says Obama can prove his detractors wrong with a strong showing in Indiana, thereby proving that he’s able to win over those pesky working-class white voters. [Trail/WP]
• Similarly, John F. Harris and David Paul Kuhn think Obama will face tough questions about his electability if he wins the nomination without winning in Indiana. By winning Indiana, he can show that those states he won with broad coalitions, like Wisconsin and Virginia, weren’t merely early aberrations. [Politico]
• Ben Smith writes that the Obama campaign doesn’t see much of a problem at all. They’re going to continue with the same plan that they’ve been using all along, and they’re not worried about his problems with working-class whites. [Politico]
• Chris Cillizza looks at Obama’s current argument to the superdelegates, which is that he does in fact have better prospects against John McCain than Clinton does. Besides noting his appeal to Independents and Clinton’s high negatives, he touts a slew of favorable polling data, though he conveniently leaves out Florida and Ohio. [Fix/WP]
• Charles Krauthammer says the real threats to Obama’s candidacy are his associations with Reverend Wright, Tony Rezko, and William Ayers, and that Obama’s only response to the legitimate questions about his character has been to dismiss them as “distractions.” [WP]
• Ed Morrisey agrees with Krauthammer, saying that Obama is the one who wanted to run not on his experience but on his judgment. Now the door is open to how he used his judgment in associating with figures like William Ayers. [Hot Air]
• Vaughn Ververs writes that Obama just needs to run out the clock without making any grievous missteps (Reverend Wright reemerging on PBS tonight, meanwhile, won’t help). The superdelegates will need much more “fuel” — that is, more scandals — to overturn Obama’s pledged-delegate lead. [Horserace/CBS News] —Dan Amira
For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.