In a quick phone interview with me just now, prominent Hillary supporter James Carville diverged from the Hillary campaign message on several key "electability" questions, saying that he thinks Obama "will" win the general election.
Carville, surprisingly, also seemed to downplay Obama's problems with non-college whites -- a cornerstone of Hillary's electability claim -- saying that if Obama gets the same level of non-college whites that John Kerry did in 2004, he "will" win the general.
Asked if he thought Obama would beat McCain, Carville said: "I think he will. I think Democrats will win in November...There's a crushing desire for change in this country. No one has seen a party or brand held in such low esteem" than the Republicans.
Carville's repeated suggestions that Obama "will" beat McCain contrast with the core Hillary message -- repeated frequently by Hillary advisers -- that Obama merely "can" win a general election, while Hillary "will" win it. Carville's comments also suggest that with the fall contest looming, it's becoming tougher for prominent Hillary backers to sustain any argument that doesn't show full confidence in Obama's chances against McCain.
Carville stressed that he thought Hillary was a better bet against McCain, but reiterated his confidence in Obama. "Hillary would be a stronger candidate, but I think he'll win this thing," Carville said.
Asked about claims that Obama has a problem with non-college whites that could hamper his electability, Carville said that thanks to changes in the electorate, to win Obama merely has to match the performance of Kerry, who underperformed with that group.
"I would argue that if he gets what Kerry got he will still win the election, because the dynamics have changed," Carville said, pointing to likely larger turnout among young voters, African Americans and other demographic changes. Carville joked, however, that he'd be loath to see Obama fall below Kerry's performance.
BUT: He had this to say earlier
“It was a very big setback, I thought, when Senator Obama had his campaign try to hype this idiotic story out of South Dakota [Clinton's RFK comments]. I thought that set things back.”