author of Black Presidential Politics in America. By building relationships between young white voters and African Americans, Wilder was elected the nation’s first black governor in 1989. However, he also advocated fiscally conservative policies and supported abortion rights. Adds Walters: “Blacks understand that they have to choose a candidate who closely represents their agenda, if not their complete agenda.”
5: SUPPORT FROM WHITE AMERICA
“We know we are ready for a black president,” says Rev. Jesse Jackson, who ran for president in 1984 and 1988. “The question is whether or not white America is ready.”
While a 2007 Gallup survey suggests that 94% of Americans would be willing to support a qualified African American for president, history tells us that poll numbers and election results do not always align. White America’s uncertainty about black candidates is best noted by the phenomenon known as the “Bradley Effect,” named for late Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who ran for governor of California in 1982. The popular Bradley enjoyed a lead in the polls over his opponent only to lose by a slim margin on Election Day.
According to a Quarterly Journal of Economics study of voting patterns between 1982 and 2000, whites who belong to the Republican and Democratic parties were less likely to vote for their party’s nominee if he or she was black, regardless of the candidate’s track record and credentials.
“The main obstacle to a black American becoming president is the Democratic Party,” asserts Frances Rice, chairman of The National Black Republican Association. “They demonize black Americans who achieve, particularly conservatives or Republicans.” With regard to Obama, Rice suggests that “the attack machine of Hillary Rodham Clinton and her cohorts is going to bring him down.”
But Obama’s gaining support among white voters in key battleground states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. At press time, an ABC News/Washington Post poll of Iowa Democrats showed Obama leading with 30%, with Clinton and Edwards trailing at 26% and 22%, respectively. And Obama is gaining ground in New Hampshire: The CNN/WMUR survey of New Hampshire Democrats showed that Clinton’s support has dropped from 43% to 36%, moving Obama up to second place with 22%.
It’s clear to see why Obama’s gaining. Traveling with his campaign in Iowa, from the blue-collar enclave of Cedar Rapids, to the rural community of Grundy Center, be reporters witnessed firsthand how his universal themes and frank talk connect with the crowds. At events, he packs them in like a rock star: in recent stops, 10,000 in Iowa City, 7,000 in Ames, and 4,500 in Davenport.
Gary Lamb, former president of the Iowa Farmers Union, says Obama connects with Iowa voters because he’s willing to hear their concerns, In fact, Obama’s held 55 roundtables with Iowa farmers–more than any other candidate, Democrat or Republican. Lamb says he’s a true leader: “Every time we are in our darkest hour a leader emerges who inspires u
s, brings us together, and has the creativity to solve our problems. During the Great Depression, it was FDR. At the