A new poll says that when voters are asked about who has played the race card in the recently, highly-publicized flaps involving charges by the camps of Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain, more voters think the Democratic presumptive party nominee pulled the card out of the deck.
Rasmussen Reports has the poll:
Sixty-nine percent (69%) of the nation’s voters say they’ve seen news coverage of the McCain campaign commercial that includes images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and suggests that Barack Obama is a celebrity just like them. Of those, just 22% say the ad was racist while 63% say it was not.
However, Obama’s comment that his Republican opponent will try to scare people because Obama does not look like all the other presidents on dollar bills was seen as racist by 53%. Thirty-eight percent (38%) disagree.
The big political lesson here is that Obama is going to have to be far more careful what he says and how he says it than McCain. Voters are giving McCain a lot more leeway. MORE:
Both campaigns expressed a desire to move beyond the recent flap. On Saturday Obama backed off the racism charge and accused McCain’s campaign of cynicism instead. He also rejected McCain’s charge that the Democrat himself had brought race into the campaign with his dollar bill comment.
Rasmussen also found some racial and partisan polarization on these questions:
Not surprisingly, the McCain ad generates significantly different perceptions along racial and ethnic lines. Most African-American voters—58%–saw the McCain ad as racist. Just 18% of white voters and 14% of all other voters shared that view. To watch the ad, click HERE.
As for Obama’s comment, 53% of white voters saw it as racist, as did 44% of African-Americans and 61% of all other voters.
There were also significant partisan divides. Democrats were evenly divided as to whether the McCain commercial was racist, and they were also evenly divided on the Obama comment. Republicans, by an 87% to 4% margin, rejected the notion that the McCain campaign ad was racist. But, by a 67% to 26% margin, GOP voters believe that Obama’s comment was racist.
Unaffiliated voters, by a five-to-one margin, said the McCain ad was not racist. By a much narrower 50% to 38% margin, un-affiliateds viewed Obama’s comment as racist.
One fact: since these controversies burst on the scene, McCain has pulled even with Obama in the Gallup Daily Tracking poll amid other indications that Obama’s candidacy is not gaining the kind of traction that many Democrats would wish at this early point in the campaign.
But one factor to consider is this: August isn’t the political ball game…yet. Political independent writer John Avlon, writing on The Politico in a post titled “Beware of the Ides of August” says this:
For all the times that this campaign has felt like a coronation for Obama, it’s worth remembering that his lead — while steady — has never approached Dukakis’ mid-summer 17 percent lead. McCain has been faring far better than the damaged Republican brand, polling well ahead of his party and its incumbent president. If Obama is a bridge-builder, McCain is a survivor.
In recent weeks, Republicans have reached back into their mid-summer bag of tricks, attempting to paint Obama with weirdly sarcastic variations on the “entitled-liberal-effete-elite” label. This style versus substance contrast may win converts, but McCain is playing a dangerous game: He gained credibility with independent voters by holding himself above partisan gutterball politics. Any low blows could be seen as a sign of desperation, which would only feed the “angry old man” and “Bush 3” labels that Democrats are trying to pin on him. The Obama campaign is disciplined and they’ve got money to burn.
This campaign is only going to heat up. So both campaigns should beware the Ides of August — it’s primetime for character assassination.
But the old saying is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
And if McCain comes out politically on top in a week of warring charges about the race card, why shouldn’t his campaign decide it’s best not to fix a strategy that polls show is not broke? If push comes to shove and each side says the other side is playing the race card, Obama’s the one who falls further down the stairs.
For more blog reaction go HERE.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.