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Who Won the Geffen Dustup?

In the punditry that followed the Obama-Hillary spat over David Geffen's comments to Maureen Dowd, there was considerable disagreement over which side had gained the upper hand in the first real intramural scuffle of the campaign. However, at least according to the poll numbers, Senator Obama looks to have emerged as the clear winner.

Before the dustup, Senator Clinton had leads over Senator Obama ranging from 15 points to 33 points in five polls that make up the RCP Average. On the day the column ran, the polls gave her an average lead of 38.5% to 18.0%. But in three national polls taken since the Geffen incident -- including polls by ABC News/Washington Post, Zogby and Time magazine -- Hillary's lead plummeted to 8-12 points. Today's RCP Average shows her with 35.5% support among Democrats versus 24.8% for Mr. Obama, cutting her lead down by a sizable 10 points in eight days.

In the short term at least, the evidence appears incontrovertible that the Geffen broadside, coupled with the Clinton campaign's handling of the issue, has given the young Obama campaign even more momentum. The pro-Clinton spin that Hillary wins this round because it dragged Mr. Obama down in the mud with her and tarnished his image of being above the political fray is just silly.

To the contrary, the Obama campaign's immediate and forceful response to Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson's demand for an apology has sent a loud message to Democrats that Mr. Obama, despite his youth and inexperience, will not be pushed around and steamrolled by the Clinton juggernaut. That message, along with Mrs. Clinton's deteriorating poll numbers, has started seriously to undermine the notion that Hillary's nomination is inevitable.

Mr. Obama not only won the "Geffen" round. If the polling holds up and the incident proves the catalyst to pull him to within single digits of Hillary Clinton at this very early date in the campaign, the contretemps may turn out to have been a key turning point in the entire campaign.