Sen. Barack Obama adjust his microphone during Wednesday's debate.
It seems like ancient history now, but not long ago Hillary Clinton argued that Barack Obama was getting a free pass from the media.
Those days are over, with moderators, a private citizen and Clinton herself peppering Obama on Wednesday night with a barrage of the kind of tough questions he escaped for more than a year.
He answered some better than others, and some not at all. But the mere fact that at least five damaging issues were thrown at him within 30 minutes was testament to how much the race has changed in the six weeks since anti-American remarks by Obama's pastor, the Rev. Jeramiah Wright, became public.
That was the high-water mark of Obama's campaign, and now the cracks are showing. My bet is that his ineffective answers on Wednesday night will mean more doubts among voters and more concern among Democratic superdelegates about whether Obama is electable in November.
The result is that Clinton, despite her own electability issues and an imperfect evening, scored a debate victory just a week before the Pennsylvania primary. A loss would knock her out.
But that seems far less likely after Obama's rocky performance. His biggest mistake was ducking a chance to explain what earlier "controversial" comments he had heard from Wright that led him to drop Wright from his campaign opening. Instead of giving an honest answer that would put the issue to rest, Obama called it a "distraction" and defended Wright while calling some of his statements "objectionable."
That's putting it too mildly. When Clinton chipped in that "you get to choose your pastor" and added that Obama's church had given an award to Louis Farrakhan and printed an anti-Semitic rant by a Hamas leader, the case was closed permanently.
Obama is clearly guilty of horrible judgment, and maybe worse.
Obama also came close to repeating the snobbishness he displayed when he said small-town residents "cling to guns or religion" out of bitterness. This time he called guns and religion "wedge issues."
Memo to Obama: One man's wedge issue is another man's family value. It's time you learned the difference.
He then gave an unsatisfactory answer about his relationship with William Ayres, a '60s violent radical. And he didn't answer a viewer's question about why he doesn't wear a flag on his lapel, calling it a "manufactured issue." To him, but not to many Americans.
Obama's problem wasn't any one of those issues. It was all of them. Combined, they paint a portrait of someone who seems distant from the concerns of the people he wants to lead.
He is certain they are wrong and he is right about what is important and what is a distraction. A lot of politicians have gone broke making that bet.
To judge from Wednesday night, Obama is determined to join them.