Why Barack Obama Should Be President - Page 4 of 7

Why Barack Obama Should Be President

he expanded his coffers through a surge in online contributions, receiving more than $20 million from small donors, those contributing $200 or less.

With Obama in the race, the country has seen unprecedented involvement from some politically shy segments of the electorate. “We have more small donors than all of the Democratic candidates combined,” Obama says. “These are people who will definitely show up to vote.”

Adds Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist who ran former Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign: “Even more than the historic amount of money that has been raised by the Democrats is the historic number of contributors to the Obama campaign.” Obama had an estimated 365,000 donors in the first three quarters of 2007. She maintains that Obama will continue to harness this grassroots enthusiasm into greater political and financial support.

To win, not only must an African American _candidate communicate a universal message, he must also have solid support from the black _electorate. “There are issues that are of particular importance to African Americans,” Obama says. “One of the reasons I think I can make strong claims for the African American voter is because I have worked more diligently on these issues than my opponents.”

Experience with civil rights is an issue that has surfaced with regard to Obama’s record. “I think people focus on it because I’m new on the national scene,” he says. “They don’t know that while in the Illinois Senate, I passed racial profiling legislation or significant reforms to the death penalty or that I was an attorney on voting rights cases to make sure that African Americans and Hispanics could vote. As people get more familiar with my track record, a lot of these rumblings will fade away.”

While Obama has received endorsements from Tyler Perry, Sidney Poitier, Chris Rock, Will Smith, Forest Whitaker, Gov. Patrick, and 12 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, his major challenge for the black vote lies in his chief opponent, Hillary Clinton. She’s garnered enormous loyalty and name recognition within the black community largely due to the popularity of her husband. Clinton has also gained support from high-powered African Americans such as Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.); billionaire businessman Bob Johnson; and entrepreneur Magic Johnson, who hosted a fundraiser for her at his mansion.

And while Obama led Clinton in polls among African American voters in the weeks following his announcement speech, things have changed–at least for now. According to a fall CNN/Opinion Research Poll among black registered Democrats, Clinton had a 57% to 33% lead over Obama. Clinton had even stronger support from black women, at 68% to Obama’s 25%, demonstrating that gender could be an important factor in this race.

But history may be on Obama’s side. African American voters tend to embrace black candidates–particularly Democratic ones–who speak to the general electorate. “Douglas Wilder ran for governor of Virginia on a Virginia agenda, not a black agenda,” points out Ron Walters, director of the African American Leadership Center at the University of Maryland and