While the chattering class ponders whether John McCain's decision to play host to Charlie Crist, Mitt Romney, and Bobby Jindal is intended to distract attention from the Friday release of the Arizona senator's medical records, a Democratic veep prospect offered a theory as to why Barack Obama is struggling to win the votes of the Scots-Irish Americans who populate states such as Kentucky, West Virginia, and parts of Pennsylvania.
"We shouldn't be surprised at the way they are voting right now," said Webb in an interview with MSNBC. "This is the result of how affirmative action, which was basically a justifiable concept when it applied to African-Americans, expanded to every single ethnic group in America that was not white. And these were the people who had not received benefits and were not getting anything out of it."
Watch the interview here.
Webb, whose book Born Fighting looks at how the Scots-Irish have shaped America, said that he bristles at the suggestion that racism is behind Obama's paltry performance among this group.
"When I hear people say this is racism, it gets my back up a little bit because that's my cultural group," said Webb. "This isn't Selma, 1965."
While laying out the hurdles posed by the legacy of race-based affirmative action, Webb expressed confidence that Obama can overcome them.
"The fact that they would line up and vote this way is not so much a comment on Barack," said Webb. "I think Barack Obama is saying a lot of good things that will appeal to this cultural group in time."
Jessica Smith, a Webb spokesperson, told ABC News that Webb's reference to "in time" refers to this election cycle.
Asked if an Obama-Webb ticket might be the way to bring those two groups to the same table, Webb's spokesperson played it coy.
"I'm not going to answer that question," said Smith.
"If you asked me (if Chelsea would run for office) before Iowa, I would have said, 'No way. She is too allergic to anything we do.' But she is really good at it." --Former President Bill Clinton to People Magazine
On the campaign front. . .
BARACK OBAMA -- 12:00 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Boca Raton, FL
As for the Republicans. . .
-- 1:30 pm ET: Attends roundtable discussion with voters, Union City, CA
-- 6:45 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, Stockton, CA
-- 8:00 pm ET: Hold s media availability, Stockton, CA
At the White House. . .
-- 10:00 am ET: Delivers remarks at a Division Review Ceremony, Fort Bragg, NC
-- 1:00 pm ET: Visits Barracks C-4122, Fort Bragg, NC
-- 1:35 pm ET: Participates in All American Memorial Ceremony, Fort Bragg, NC
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ABC News' Teddy Davis, Mike Elmore and Talal Al-Khatib: Webb: Affirmative Action Behind Obama Woes LINK
ABC News' Eloise Harper: Clinton Demands Florida, Michigan Votes Count LINK
ABC News' David Chalian: Clinton Wins Ky; Obama Wins Oregon: What's Next? LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Split Victories LINK
ABC News' Bret Hovell: Lobbyist Ties Threaten McCain Image LINK
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