Politico: Race drives strategy, stirs uncertainty

Politico

Race drives strategy, stirs uncertainty

By far the most likely thing that could derail Obama’s victory is a racial backlash that is not visible in today’s polls but is waiting to surge on Election Day — coaxed to the surface (to the extent coaxing is needed) with the help of coded appeals from McCain and his conservative allies.

Racial issues tend to hover in the background in much of the public analysis of the Obama-McCain horserace — often mentioned but not usually as the dominant factor. By contrast, it is increasingly the subject of obsessive interest in the nonstop, not-for-attribution conversation that takes place between reporters, political analysts and campaign sources in the heat of an election.

As a result, much of the news coverage and commentary that the media will produce over the next month will flow from the assumption that racial antagonisms are an unexploded bomb in this contest. By this logic, if Obama does not head into Nov. 4 with a lead of at least several points in the polls, there is a good chance he’ll be swamped by prejudice that will flourish in the privacy of the voting booth.

“If Obama loses a close race,” James Carville told our colleague David Paul Kuhn, “it is almost inevitable that [racism] will be a very big part of the interpretation of the race.”

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