From the Left



Hidden Side of Obama's Race Gap

By Clarence Page, Tribune Media Services on

In his 2008 "More Perfect Union" speech, presidential candidate Barack Obama declared, "Race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now." Then he tried his best to ignore it.

At least in public, that is. It says a lot about the trickiness of being the nation's first black or, if you prefer, biracial president that Obama noticeably avoided saying much about race or racism before that speech, which he delivered to calm the furor over his former pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's taped "God Damn America" remarks.

And he has measurably avoided addressing the issue ever since. As author-blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates recently wrote in The Atlantic, citing research by political scientist Daniel Gillion at the University of Pennsylvania, Obama talked less about race in his first two years in office than any other Democratic president since 1961.

It is not hard to understand why. Even in his near-silence on matters of race, his critics in conservative blogs and cable TV talk shows often sound like they can't tell him apart from Minister Louis Farrakhan.

That's politics. When your biggest asset is your lack of scariness, your opponents will focus on making you more scary.

That may at least partially explain why after four years in office, President Obama remains popular with every historically underserved minority but the largest one: white men without college degrees.


He's not alone. Most white male voters, particularly without degrees, have been turning away from the Democratic Party since the mid-1960s civil rights era. But polls since midsummer found Obama's white support has sunk from surprisingly high four years ago to historic lows.

A mid-October Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll put Romney ahead of Obama among white voters by a huge lead, 60 percent to 37 percent. Obama's support among blacks and Hispanics was about the same as in 2008, but his support among whites had declined from 43 percent four years ago.

A poll by Quinnipiac University found Obama attracting just 29 percent of non-college white men in July, down from 32 percent in their most recent national survey in April. Similar ABC/Washington Post surveys had nearly identical results. Romney by comparison drew 56 percent in Quinnipiac's poll and 65 percent with ABC/Washington Post.

A later National Journal study found Obama's level of support among white men to be lower than any Democratic nominee since Ronald Reagan beat President Jimmy Carter in 1980.


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