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Race rears again in campaign

At least it's being wrestled with in the open as Obama's former pastor speaks out.

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Just as Barack Obama struggles to close the deal, his controversial former pastor is speaking out. Yet the candidate says he did not try to dissuade the Rev. Jeremiah Wright from resurfacing, even though his comments are sure to remind voters of his incendiary oratory – and of the men's long association.

There's something grown up about this apparent restraint on Mr. Obama's part – a recognition that the issue of race can't be bottled up during his campaign. It's there, beneath the surface and above it, to be dealt with as it comes.

Sometimes it generates only a quiet ripple, such as last week when Bill Clinton made the perplexing comment that it was the Obama campaign that dealt the race card in January's South Carolina primary – even though it was Mr. Clinton who likened Obama to Jesse Jackson.

Sometimes, race roars up, such as in a state GOP ad in North Carolina in advance of the May 6 Democratic primaries. The ad features a clip from Mr. Wright's damning-of-America sermon, then criticizes two gubernatorial candidates for supporting Obama, who the ad describes as "too extreme." Ostensibly, the subject is patriotism, but juicy race bait dangles on the line.

Race also swam around the Pennsylvania primary. Twelve percent of white voters told exit pollsters that race mattered in their vote. A quarter of those backed Obama, but the rest darted away from him to Hillary Clinton.

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