Thursday, April 24, 2008

Words from Doug Wilder

Doug Wilder words from the Bloomberg article:

Obama Gets Encouragement and Warning From Wilder (Update3)

By Heidi Przybyla

April 24 (Bloomberg) -- Doug Wilder, the nation's first elected black governor, has both encouragement and a warning for Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

The encouragement is that Obama is approaching the race issue the right way, and the nation is ready to elect a black president. The warning is that it may not be as ready as polls suggest.

``Let's not kid ourselves again, the issue of race will not disappear; but I don't think it will predominate,'' the former Virginia governor said in an interview at his office in Richmond, where he is now mayor. At the same time, he said, even if Obama is the nominee and heads into the fall with an apparent lead, the election ``will be closer than any polls will suggest.''

Wilder, 77, is an authority in the matter. In 1989, he won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in the overwhelmingly white onetime cradle of the Confederacy. Polls taken just before Election Day had put him ahead of his Republican competitor by as much as 10 percentage points; he won by less than half a percentage point.

Wilder said he believes Obama has done a good job so far in blunting the race issue. ``Obama, by not running as an African- American, has been able to show that race is coincidental to his being,'' rather than the centerpiece of his campaign, he said.

The message Obama, 46, sends to voters is ```I'm not being dominated by any groups,''' Wilder said. ``That includes African- Americans.''

`Ingrained Difficulty'

Wilder said he isn't surprised that Obama has run behind New York Senator Hillary Clinton among white voters in some states. Obama has faced more ``ingrained difficulty'' as a black candidate than Clinton has as a woman, Wilder said.

Bias against Clinton, 60, may have more to do with specific incidents that have reinforced stereotypes, he said. ``Hillary's reactions to things conjure up images that are not necessarily the healthiest in terms of hissy fits or reactions because of emotions, like the crying and the weeping and then forgetting somewhat that she did that,'' he said.

In Pennsylvania's April 22 Democratic primary, Obama lost by 10 points to Clinton as white Democrats voted for her by a 65-to- 35 percent margin. Black Democrats supported Obama by a 90-to-10 percent margin. In exit polls, 19 percent of Pennsylvania Democratic voters said race was important in making their choice.

`Struggling' for White Votes

Obama is ``struggling'' with white working-class voters in the nomination contest, Wilder said. ``I don't think that struggle will emanate through the general election because they have far more in common with him than they do with the Republican candidate.''

Discussing the Pennsylvania results yesterday in Indiana, Obama said ``we're continuing to make progress'' with white working-class voters. ``We haven't gone backwards, we're going forward.''

Still, Wilder said, Obama should be prepared for a discrepancy between polling and election results, which came to be known as the ``Wilder effect'' after the 1989 race.

Previously, it was dubbed the ``Bradley effect'' after Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley's 1982 gubernatorial loss in an election that polls had projected him to win. In both cases, exit surveys were inaccurate, leading pollsters to conclude that some white voters gave misleading answers to conceal racial prejudice. Polls before the Pennsylvania contest predicted a 5-point loss for Obama.

Wilder predicted a tight race for Obama against the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain, if Obama does win the nomination. He said he had advised the candidate on how to handle the race issue.

`High Ground'

``I've told him to keep the high ground,'' Wilder said. ``Let the rest of us do what needed to be done'' in responding to attacks.

``I told him it's going to be very difficult, particularly running against a woman,'' he said. ``And racially it's going to be even more difficult.''

When Wilder ran for president for three months in 1992, internal polling in New Hampshire, the nation's first primary state, showed him at the top of the preference list based on his positions, his biography and his speeches, he said.

``As soon as my picture was put up associated with that, it would go down,'' he said.

This year, Obama was projected to win the Jan. 8 New Hampshire contest after beating Clinton in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3. Polls showed him ahead by 13 points. Yet Clinton beat him by 3 points in the Granite State.

``He should never have believed those New Hampshire polls, and I think now he recognizes that,'' Wilder said.

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