Bloomberg: Albert R. Hunt: Obama Gains as New South Trumps Old Race Card

Bloomberg: Albert R. Hunt

Obama Gains as New South Trumps Old Race Card 

Harvey Gantt is exuberant over Barack Obama‘s prospects of carrying Gantt’s home state of North Carolina: “This state has changed.”

Then he has a flashback. Eighteen years ago, the African- American Gantt, a former popular mayor of Charlotte, was leading Senator Jesse Helms in the polls. The Republican incumbent then began running a blatantly racist ad. Gantt lost.

“I am confident but leery,” Gantt, 65, says over a salad at a restaurant in downtown Charlotte, a city that is emblematic of the new North Carolina.

Former Governor Hunt also credits the Democratic presidential candidate: “The regular party white Democrats are comfortable with Obama; they appreciate and admire his cool and how smart he is.” Asked if he ever thought he’d see an African-American winning a presidential election in his home state, the 71-year-old Hunt replies, “I never expected a fellow like Obama to come along.”

Gantt, remembering what happened to him, has no doubt that the race card, subtly or not, will be played in the final weeks of the campaign. He doesn’t dismiss its emotional resonance.

Still, he believes that it’s going to be a harder sell in the current North Carolina: “There are fewer people in this state that can be exploited by that sort of tactic today.”

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