The race for the Democratic presidential nomination is nearing the endgame. Like most African Americans, I was skeptical that white voters would embrace Barack Obama’s candidacy. While Obama enjoys broad support among all demographic groups, I am mindful that he is racking up victories in Democratic primaries and caucuses.
If Obama is the nominee, the general election will be a different ballgame. Consider this from the Washington Post:
Obama's campaign released a memo shortly after the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday votes that made a similar case, noting that in six states carried by President Bush in 2004 -- Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota and South Carolina -- Obama received more votes than the top two Republican finishers combined. (Since that memo, the trend has held true in Nebraska, Louisiana and Virginia.)
Barack Obama is the candidate best suited to win Independents, play well in red states, and beat John McCain in November," the memo said.
So, is it true? Is Obama a potential map-breaker for Democrats -- able to win previously non-competitive states in the South and the Midwest?
I have underestimated Obama’s appeal from the get-go, but it would be easier to turn Big Joe Turner’s face cherry red than to turn some red states blue.
In South Carolina, for instance, with the exception of Jimmy Carter (1976 and 1980) and Bill Clinton (1996) no Democratic presidential candidate has received more than 40 percent of the vote since 1968.
Obama’s slew of victories shows that more white voters than ever are willing to cross the color line. Still, it's a leap of faith to think that race doesn’t matter in a state that flies a universal symbol of racial hatred on the Statehouse grounds.
While the national media downplay the impact of illegal immigration in the presidential election, it remains a hot issue for millions of Americans. A recent poll found that 70 percent of South Carolinians say illegal immigration is an extremely or very important issue.
The South Carolina state legislature is responding to voters’ concerns. The Senate and House recently passed legislation cracking down on illegal immigration. Legislation has been introduced tightening rules on illegals’ access to drivers’ licenses, employment and public benefits in other red states, including Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia.
Last year, Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain voted for amnesty for illegal immigrants. But McCain has since distanced himself from his own legislation. In remarks before the CPAC conference, he pledged:
And while I and other Republican supporters of the bill were genuine in our intention to restore control of our borders, we failed, for various and understandable reasons, to convince Americans that we were. I accept that, and have pledged that it would be among my highest priorities to secure our borders first, and only after we achieved widespread consensus that our borders are secure, would we address other aspects of the problem in a way that defends the rule of law and does not encourage another wave of illegal immigration.
Meanwhile, Obama is the only presidential candidate who supports giving drivers’ licenses to illegals. And we know how well that worked out for Democratic governors in two of the bluest states. California Gov. Gray Davis was recalled and New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer was knocked on his keister.