Interview puts Rev. Wright back in spotlight

Campaigning in Indiana Friday, the senator said Reverend Wright is free to express his opinion. With the Indiana primary less than two weeks away, both Democratic presidential candidates were in the Hoosier State Friday.

Hillary Clinton was expected to make three separate appearances in Lake County, Indiana, Friday night, beginning with a Bennigan's next to the minor league ballpark in downtown Gary.

Indiana is certainly shaping up as a super-primary state, a must win for both candidates, for Clinton to keep the campaign alive, and Obama to put her away once and for all and to prove he can win a blue collar state.

Obama wants to focus on bread and butter issues like soaring gas prices as he campaigns in Indianapolis, but a decision by his former pastor to launch a P.R. campaign this week is forcing Obama to answer more questions about their relationship, including Rev. Wright's reaction to Obama's condemnation of his remarks.

"He's a politician, I'm a pastor," said Wright said in a public television interview.

"He's obviously free to express his opinions on these issues. I've expressed mine very clearly," Obama said Friday. "I think that what he said in several instances were objectionable and I understand why the American people took offense. And, as I indicated before, I took offense."

Hillary Clinton weighed in on the Wright controversy during a debate in Philadelphia, the week before she won the Pennsylvania primary by about 10 points.

"For Pastor Wright to have given his first sermon after 9/11 and to have blamed the United States for the attack, which happened in my city of New York, would have been just intolerable for me," Clinton said April 16.

But the question now, as the campaign moves into another big battleground state, Indiana, is the extent to which the Wright controversy may be hurting Obama among some voters.

Obama supporter Barbara Williams said she thinks Obama has been hurt by controversy "because people try to assign guilt to him based upon what someone else does."

Clinton supporter Lori Jamrok said she thinks it is unfair to hold Obama responsible for the preacher's words, "but he hasn't pulled himself away from it and kind of said to Reverend Wright." She said she doesn't believe Obama when he tried to distance himself from Wright and his controversial comments.

That tough point of view may be one of the reasons Obama has had a lot of trouble in Pennsylvania. The polling indicated that the Reverend Wright controversy was not hurting Obama very much, but looking at the results in Pennsylvania, especially among so-called lunch bucket white voters, it could very well have resonated.

And in Indiana, while the state is closer to Illinois, with younger voters, there are also a lot of blue collar voters who could have similar reactions. The polling in Indiana is a dead heat, with Obama ahead by a couple of points, but well within the margin of error.

For the next 10 days, it is going to be hot and heavy all over the Hoosier State. Obama will be back in the state to campaign by Monday.

Copyright © 2024 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.