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Obama and the race issue

This morning on WBUR's On Point, Jeffrey Goldberg noted that Barack Obama's almost-presidential candidacy marks the first time an African-American has a real shot at winning the White House.

Goldberg is right. That said, the question of how voters will respond to Obama's race/ethnicity is an open one. Over at Salon, Walter Shapiro thinks it's striking that so few people are talking about the race issue right now:

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Obama's decision to seek to become the 44th president is that virtually all of the initial reservations about his candidacy are premised on this question of experience. Who ever imagined, during the long terrible history of American race relations, that when the first black candidate made a serious bid for the presidency, the color of his skin would be regarded as close to an irrelevancy.
Of course, just because no one's playing the race card at the moment doesn't mean Obama won't get Harold Ford-ed later on. My own quick take is that Obama's going to be hurt more by his last name and his middle name (i.e., Hussein) than his mixed-race ancestry--but then, I might just be a naive white liberal.

Thoughts, anyone?

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