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"Obama Could Face Backlash"

Posted January. 22, 2008 07:17,   

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Illinois Senator Barack Obama, aiming to be the first black president in the United States, is gaining a solid commitment from black voters.

In the Nevada primary on Jan. 19, Obama won 83 percent of votes from black voters, who make up more than half of the supporters of his contender Hillary Rodham Clinton just three months ago.

Black voters account for the majority of South Carolina Democratic electorate and are expected to give Obama a winning edge in the primary scheduled on Jan. 26, according to four pollsters including Rasmussen. Obama showed an average 43 percent of support, leading Clinton by 11 percent.

Despite his lead at the polls, Obama’s camp is reportedly anxious about the possible backlash stemming from a possible concentration of white votes on Clinton. In this 40th anniversary year of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he visited the church where the deceased minister preached, in order to stress the “solidarity of the United States regardless of colors.”

▽ Subtle division among white and black voters

Bringing up the African American issue is easily condemned as politically incorrect. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, is a case in point. During his interview, he used words like “clean,” “articulate” and “first African-American candidate” to describe Obama, which put him in trouble for a while.

A CBS/New York Times poll between Jan. 9 and 12, however, shows this subtle racial separation among electorates. When asked whether their neighbors will vote for a black candidate, 65 respondents said yes, while 90 percent positively responded they will vote for a black candidate.

In other words, the poll indicates that those who will "not" vote for a black candidate accounts for just 10 percent, while 35 percent voters show unwillingness to vote for a black candidate. This result supports the argument that a black president is still an untimely notion.

▽ Making race a contentious issue

Recently, supporters of Obama are apparently trying to take advantage of the racial issue by referring to Hillary Clinton as a “racist.” Hillary made a comment a few days ago saying that political achievement by President Lyndon B. Johnson was greater than the civil rights movement by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

A Hillary supporter and first black millionaire who owns the Black Entertainment Television channel raised a controversy by saying Obama did drugs as described in his Memoir while Hillary Clinton was struggling to overcome problems facing African Americans. Hillary was criticized for reportedly trying to undermine Obama’s efforts for African American society through a third party.

In the face of these aggressions, Clinton has strived to improve her images as a friend of African Americans by showing her black supporters, such as former basketball star Magic Johnson, on television. She also recently praised Obama for his civil movement activities for African Americans.

These movements came at a time when white female supporters began showing solid backing for Clinton. An ABC/Washington Post poll during Jan. 9 and 12 suggests that Clinton is leading Obama by 50 to 30 percent among white female voters.



srkim@donga.com