The war in Iraq is an unpopular as ever, gas prices just hit a record of $3.51, stores are running out of food ("and I ain't lyin"*), so you would think that the candidate of the party that's been in power during this fiasco would be losing by 15 points or so in the polls right now, even if were a decorated war hero. But in fact, John McCain runs neck and neck in the polls with the Democrats, maybe even slightly better against Barack Obama.
The Republican shook his head. “You’re missing the most important one,” he said. “Race. McCain runs against Barack Obama and the race vote is worth maybe 15 percent to McCain.”
Simon says that, sadly, a new AP poll suggests he may be right:
How big is that percentage? An AP-Yahoo poll conducted April 2-14 found that “about 8 percent of whites would be uncomfortable voting for a black for president.”
I don’t know if 8 percent sounds high or low to you, but I was amazed that 8 percent of respondents were willing to admit this to a pollster. And I figure that the true figure is much higher.
The same poll, by the way, found that 15 percent of voters think Obama is a Muslim. He is, in fact, a Christian. But thinking a person is a Muslim probably does not encourage you to vote for him in America today.
I'm more optimistic -- the way I interpret those numbers, that means that 7 percent of Americans would consider voting for a black Muslim for president...just kidding. The sad truth is that some racism in America is going to be with us for a long time. The interesting question is whether political strategists are talking about "the race vote" because it exists, or because they plan to foment it.
* Aretha Franklin
UPDATE: I think the "race vote" includes the South Carolina "pastor" who put up this sign:
Byrd said that the message wasn't meant to be racial or political.
"It's simply to cause people to realize and to see what possibly could happen if we were to get someone in there that does not believe in Jesus Christ," he said.