- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2008

Democrats suffered a barrage of embarrassing headlines last week as they found themselves embroiled in a political sex scandal, racist banter and anti-American rants that bruised the party and its presidential hopefuls.

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a political ally of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and a one-time pillar of ethical fortitude, resigned after a federal investigation revealed that he frequently hired high-priced call girls, officials said.

The senator from New York also distanced herself from Geraldine Ferraro, the party’s 1984 nominee for vice president and a fundraising heavyweight, who broached the race issue regarding Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

“If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position,” Mrs. Ferraro told the Daily Breeze newspaper in Torrance, Calif. “And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”

The Obama campaign called the remarks racist, Mrs. Clinton called them regrettable, and Mrs. Ferraro quit the Clinton campaign’s finance committee.

Neither Democrat wins in that exchange. Polls show that the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, surged in the past week in hypothetical matchups with either Democrat.

In the four-day rolling survey by Rasmussen Reports, the senator from Arizona gained six percentage points on both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama between Sunday and yesterday. In Gallup’s daily tracking survey, Mr. McCain trailed both Democrats by a statistically insignificant two percentage points on Tuesday; by Friday, even those slight leads had been erased.

In a survey by Zogby International released yesterday, Mr. McCain bested Mrs. Clinton by six percentage points (45 percent to 39 percent) and Mr. Obama by five points (44 percent to 39 percent). The Zogby survey of 1,001 likely voters included independent Ralph Nader as one of the choices and had an error margin of 3.2 percentage points.

The polls reflected a week of bad ink for the Democrats.

Mr. Obama had to shake off criticism of his longtime mentor and friend, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who declared from the pulpit that blacks should not sing along with “God Bless America,” as he railed against the country’s history of slavery, racism and oppression of blacks.

The senator from Illinois said he vehemently disagreed with and strongly condemned Mr. Wright’s statements, but the episode rekindled questions about Mr. Obama’s ongoing relationship with a preacher who espouses radical “black power” philosophy and supports Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

“Rev. Wright preached the Gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my life,” Mr. Obama said in a blog Friday on the Huffington Post. “In other words, he has never been my political adviser; he’s been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn.”

As the adage goes: When you have to explain yourself, you’re losing.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a Democrat, struggled last week to explain charges of an extramarital affair with his chief of staff and a surreptitious $8.4 million payoff to a police whistleblower. In his State of the City speech, the mayor blamed the press for the scandal and said he and his family were victims of slurs and other racially motivated attacks.

“I’ve heard these words before, but I’ve never heard people say them about my wife and my children,” he said.

The remarks fanned the hostility, and more fellow Democrats called for Mr. Kilpatrick’s resignation.

Democrats did savor some sunny moments last week when both chambers of the Democrat-led Congress passed a budget before leaving for a two-week spring break and when Bill Foster won the Illinois congressional seat vacated by former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, the longest serving Republican speaker.

Mr. Foster won the March 8 special election over Jim Oberweis, 53 percent to 47 percent, although the Republican Party pumped more than $1 million into the Oberweis campaign and scheduled appearances by Mr. McCain in the conservative district.

Democrats described the victory as part of a political sea change across the nation.

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