With Race in Play, Obama's White Support Softens
Poll numbers plummeted amid Sotomayor, Gates controversies
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Sep 14, 2009 12:15 PM CDT
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have a beer with Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley at the White House on Thursday, July 30, 2009.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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(Newser) – President Obama’s downward opinion-poll trajectory among whites seems to be linked to the “blackening” of his image, writes Joan Walsh in Salon. It accelerated during two racially charged moments this summer: Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court, marked with debate over her “wise Latina” comment, and the Henry Louis Gates controversy. At such times, Walsh argues, “there's no denying, he got blacker to a segment of the white population.”

“I think most of the president's troubles with white voters have to do with political doubt his enemies have sown about his programs,” Walsh notes. Other Democrats have faced smear campaigns; Bill Clinton was portrayed as a rapist. But such claims never drew out “organized opposition” such as we’re seeing among anti-Obama extremists. “The Republican attack is resonating with a small but extremely vocal and paranoid segment of its base," Wals observes, "and I think racism has everything to do with that.”