The Note: Race About Race

As the presidential campaign stands in an odd state of pre-Pennsylvania, post-Ferraro-Spitzer (and Kristen) abeyance, we're back pondering the politics of race.

These were the questions that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., thought he'd silenced -- if not in Iowa than certainly by Wisconsin and beyond, as he amassed his now seemingly insurmountable lead in pledged delegates.

But of these two sideshows that have livened up the campaign this week -- Gov. Eliot Spitzer and former vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro offering themselves up as an odd couple of roguery -- it's Ferraro whose actions have more relevance to the race, if not quite matching Spitzer's tabloid appeal.

In making controversial comments on race, then defying Washington traditions by actually standing by them, she earned herself a ticket off of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's surrogate list -- and helped throw race back into the forefront of the presidential campaign.

"Thank you, Geraldine Ferraro, for reminding people in a clumsy way that racism and sexism -- both original sins of the republic -- still exist in the United States and will mar an otherwise extraordinary presidential election if we let it," AP's Ron Fournier writes in his "On Deadline" column.

"This much is, sadly, certain: Obama and Clinton are trying to exploit the issue. They may be speaking in code, but the polarized Democratic electorate gets the message."

Voters are showing why the strategy works: "Despite the celebration of Barack Obama's electoral successes as evidence that the nation has moved beyond racial divisions, signs are emerging of a small but unmistakable race-based resistance to his historic White House bid," Mike Dorning and Christi Parsons write in the Chicago Tribune. "Among the 30 primaries and caucuses for which exit polls are available and Obama was on the ballot, Clinton has won the white vote in 23."

Add this to the mix: ABC's Brian Ross offered a report on "Good Morning America" on Thursday looking at the controversial views of Obama's longtime pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Among the comments captured on video: "God damn America for treating its citizens as less than human." Sprinkle in a reference to the "US of KKK A," and a suggestion that the nation invited 9/11: "America's chickens are coming home to roost."

Responded Obama adviser Shaun Casey, on "GMA": "It's unfair to hold any politician to the political views of their particular pastor. . . . He's repudiated those views. . . . I think you have to take his word for that."

Obama was supposed to be the candidate who moves the nation beyond race, but who benefits when the nation -- and the Democratic Party -- can't quite get there?

"Race, as well as sex, have been unavoidable subtexts of the Democratic campaign since the two candidates began seeking to be the first African-American or the first woman to lead a party's presidential ticket," Patrick Healy and Jeff Zeleny write in The New York Times. "In the primaries and caucuses this winter, too, Mrs. Clinton has enjoyed substantial support from women, while Mr. Obama has increasingly drawn overwhelming votes from blacks."

Might you believe this of the Clinton campaign? "Some think Ferraro's comments may be tactical," Politico's Roger Simon writes, "especially with the Pennsylvania primary coming up in a few weeks, where Obama must do well in Philadelphia to have a chance."

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