(CNN) - Rep. Mel Watt, who endorsed Barack Obama Wednesday, said that the current presidential contest reminds him of Harvey Gantt’s Senate bid.
Watt served as campaign manager for the Democrat’s unsuccessful run against the-Sen. Jesse Helms in 1990. He told reporters on a conference call Wednesday that Gantt almost came out on top that year.
"This campaign has some of those same racial dynamics, those same kind of interesting dynamics that don't coincide with every single campaign that we've had," he said.
He added that "to stick our head in the sand and not acknowledge that would be to ignore the obvious." Earlier, Watt had said that he did not think the country was ready for a black president.
He said that he has been surprised at how much Obama has continued to build support as the campaign has progressed, one reason why he changed his mind after earlier stating that he did not think America was ready for a black president.
The congressman said he believed the racial climate had improved since the Gantt-Helms race: “it’s a new day in America,” he said.