THE DEMOCRATIC RACE….Barack Obama’s decision to allow “reformed gay” singer Donnie McClurkin to preach at a series of campaign events in South Carolina has obviously not gone down well in the liberal blogosphere. But how about in South Carolina itself? Ed Kilgore reports:

Well, the Columbia State, which features massive political coverage every day, didn’t bother to cover Obama’s Columbia event. It did publish an AP story with the title: “McClurkin Wins Cheers At Obama Event Despite Gay Protests,” which gives you an idea how seriously the writer took the cataclysmic-disaster interpretation of Obama’s gospel tour.

These different optics reflect the very different issues Obama’s campaign was dealing with in putting on this kind of event. On the one hand, it deeply offended not only gays and lesbians, but many progressive activists who want to support Obama as an alternative to Clinton, but suspect his commitment to the kind of ideological rigor and partisan zeal they consider essential in a nominee. On the other hand, it might have done him some good in SC, where his candidacy may ultimately rise or fall based on his ability to wrest a sizable majority of African-American votes away from HRC.

If anything, this puts the whole thing in an even worse light, because it makes it seem more likely that teaming up with McClurkin was a deliberate decision, not just a staff mistake. There’s no telling, of course, but it’s either a case of horrible judgment or a case of horrible vetting and planning. Those are both pretty bad signs.

It’s funny. I was talking to a friend over the weekend and asked if he’d decided who to support. Hillary, he said. We talked about that for a while, and he went through several possible problems with her candidacy and why he’d decided they weren’t really big things to be concerned about. But I didn’t really find myself convinced. In fact, the conversation mostly just reminded me of a bunch of reasons to be concerned about her candidacy.

When you get down to it, I guess I’m sympathetic toward Hillary but really, really wishing that Obama would give me a good reason to change my mind and support him instead. But he just never does. Domestic policywise he’s been fairly cautious and mainstream. On the foreign policy front he’s better than HRC, but only by a couple of notches. And his Kumbaya campaigning schtick leaves me cold. Worse than that, in fact: it leaves me terrified that he just doesn’t know what he’s up against with the modern Republican Party and won’t have the instinct to go for the jugular when the inevitable Swift Boating commences. (Needless to say, I have no such doubts about Hillary.)

At the same time, I’ve also never had the visceral hatred of Hillary that some people do. I’ve always liked her fine. Sure, she’s calculating and political, but every politician is calculating and political. Her only problem is that she isn’t quite as good as hiding it as some of the others. What’s more, I think she’d make a good president, one who could hit the ground running and get a lot done in Congress. In fact, potentially she could be a great president, though I suspect she’s rather too cautious to ever reach her full potential.

This is turning into a ramble, and as long as I’m rambling I guess I should ramble about John Edwards too. In a way, my reaction to him is even murkier. I voted for him in the 2004 primary, and on a policy level I like him better than either Hillary or Obama. He’s also a very good speaker and campaigner. And yet, I somehow can’t shake the feeling that he’s basically running for vice president. Not literally, mind you, but in the sense that he doesn’t quite seem to be fully fired up about the prospect of running the country. I think maybe I still haven’t shaken my memory of his 2004 debate against Dick Cheney, where he seemed content to go through the motions and not really make a fight of it.

Hell, this is kind of a sucky post, isn’t it? Several hundred words about how I can’t make up my mind. But in a way, I guess I have. I’m really not in a Kumbaya mood right now, so despite my fear that Hillary will never be willing (or maybe able) to break out of the mainstream box she’s painted herself into, I think she’s my favorite. Obama’s had six months to seal the deal with me, and he’s done nothing but make me ever more nervous about him with every passing month. Hillary’s too much of a conventional lefty hawk for my taste, but aside from that her policy instincts are good, her experience has taught her some valuable lessons, she knows her own mind, and she’s not afraid of a fight. And I’d be delighted to finally have a woman in the Oval Office. I’ll keep my eye on Obama, but I guess I’m officially leaning toward Mrs. Clinton at the moment.

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