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Obama's answer to racist voters

He wisely sticks with his big-tent message, despite pressure to be the 'black' candidate.

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From the get-go, Barack Obama has tried to transcend race in his presidential campaign. Like Tiger Woods, he'd like the public to focus more on his swing than his color. But too many voters aren't willing to let him out of this sand trap.

Polls indicate race as an influence in voter decisionmaking, and not always in Mr. Obama's favor. While an overwhelming majority of blacks support him, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll taken in mid-July shows he may be in trouble with a small but significant percentage of whites.

Of white voters surveyed, 8 percent said race is the most important factor in choosing a candidate – up from 6 percent a month ago. In the Democratic primaries, exit polling in swing state Pennsylvania showed race mattered to 12 percent of voters. A quarter of that percentage backed Obama, but the rest backed Hillary Clinton.

On the other end of the spectrum, select criticism can be heard within the black community that Obama is not paying enough attention to it. Black DJs would like to host him more often on their shows, while Jesse Jackson accuses the candidate of "talking down to black people."

Racial and ethnic minorities in America want him on board with their specific concerns. He fielded questions about some of these issues at a July 27 conference of minority journalists in Chicago. If he were president, for instance, would the federal government apologize for the treatment of native Americans? What about reparations for slavery? Does he support affirmative action at a time when the push is on for ballot measures to ban racial and gender preferences (measures that Republican hopeful John McCain now appears to endorse)?

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