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Inside Politics

Schneider: Obama starting to show a few bumps

Story Highlights

• Barack Obama, the "rock star" candidate, has gotten more scrutiny lately
• A claim about his parents and the Selma march didn't have the right dates
• A YouTube video about Hillary Clinton was linked to his campaign
• Still, at second place among Democratic candidates, he has a strong showing
From Bill Schneider
CNN Senior Political Analyst
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Barack Obama is running for president as an outsider and a newcomer, someone untainted by cynicism.

He characterizes his campaign with an optimistic tone, saying, "This campaign must be the occasion, the vehicle of your hopes and your dreams."

And it seems to be working. For months, Sen. Obama, D-Illinois, has been described as the "rock star" candidate. But lately, he has been getting a lot of close scrutiny.

With so much scrutiny, how is Obama doing? (Watch Obama spell out what he would do as president Video)

CNN compiled several recent polls -- a poll of polls -- that shows him picking up five points between January and February, when he announced his candidacy. Obama picked up another two points this past month, trailing only Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, among Democratic candidates.

Obama's poll numbers are up despite some missteps, like when he spoke about his parents being inspired by the Selma, Alabama, voting rights march. He claimed that he was a product of the march, "So they got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born."

Except Obama was born in 1961. The Selma march took place in 1965. Obama says he was speaking metaphorically, about the inspiring nature of the civil rights movement as a whole.

When an anti-Hillary Clinton video, based on the 1984 Apple computer ad, turned up on YouTube, Obama told CNN's Larry King, "It's not something that we had anything to do with or were aware of and that, frankly, don't have the technical capacity to create something like that."

But the ad was made by a political operative working for a firm hired by the Obama campaign. And the technical requirements were not all that great.

His performance at a health-care forum was criticized as vague. He told the audience, "we have a plan that we are in the process of unveiling."

His hometown newspapers have been particularly tough. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet took a close look at Obama's memoir, "Dreams of My Father."

Sweet said of the book, "I realize that most of the book can't be taken as fact, because as he wrote in the preface, he has composite characters, made up dialogue, and he switched names for many of the characters in it, so when you read it, you're not sure what's true and what's not."

Serious problems ahead?

At this stage of the campaign, these look like rookie mistakes, but could they become serious problems further down the campaign trail?

"If these incidents can be made into political attack ads," says Sweet, "again, it could be by groups for or against somebody, either in the primary campaign or in the general, then he's hurt."

Right now, Obama is new, he's different and he's got a strong anti-war record, so people make allowances. Republicans may be a little jealous.

"I think a lot of Republicans really wish they had an Obama on their side this time around," says Drew Cline, who covers campaigns for the New Hampshire Union Leader, "and they don't have anybody to get excited about.''

At this point in 1991, Bill Clinton was tied for 11th place in the Democratic field, with 2 percent support. In 1987, Michael Dukakis was in fifth place with 3 percent. In 1975, Jimmy Carter was 12th, with one percent.

Suddenly, second place with 24 percent doesn't look too bad.


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Is Sen. Barack Obama's star beginning to fade?

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