April 16th, 2008
01:20 PM ET
13 years ago

Obama backer: Campaign's 'racial dynamics' like Helms-Gantt


(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.

soundoff (147 Responses)
  1. Look byond

    FOR GOD'S SAKE LETS VOTE

    April 16, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  2. Bubba

    While Hillary and Obama bash each others heads in, Mr. McCain is putting together his campaign and firming up his stances on important issues. He is working while H and O play third grade games. The Dem Party is in ashes and they continue to snipe (no pun intended!) while the public grows weary of them.

    April 16, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  3. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Not this year. Not this guy. Not yet. (Not her either.)

    April 16, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  4. Crystal, California

    Obama is a special individual and people can't help but like him, once they get to know him, it appears.

    April 16, 2008 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  5. AZM

    Maybe you should stop talking to the press and work on some of the things you all said would be done in the first 100 days the dems controlled congress....

    Still waiting for the first one?

    April 16, 2008 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  6. DJ in TX

    Well said. Times are chaning and we have progressed. But there is still much to do for "true" racial equality.

    April 16, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  7. Uncle Sam

    The success of Sen. Obama's campaign is evidence that America is ready for a black president. However, I believe that many Americans have serious concerns about his qualifications.

    April 16, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  8. True Believer in hope

    Like Watt, I believe the same thing- Even though I liked Obama from the start, I did not believe that Obama would have a snowballs chance in hell to even be considered for president. And so, I was going to vote for Hillary, as she was a more realistic choice for reaching the Oval office.

    It is a new day in America, and it was so healing for me to see that people in Iowa looked beyond color. I am ashamed that as an African-American, I did not look beyond color, and that was out of bitterness and hopelessness.

    Iowa proved us all wrong and taught us that there it is a new day in America. To everyone, white and black, thank you for looking beyond race. I will endeavor to do the same from now on.

    Obama '08 .

    April 16, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  9. Susan MO

    Stop with the 'race' issue.

    Race does not matter for one to be a good president.

    But one who is rude & critical to the people of America, should not be our president. Obama knew what he was saying when he insulted the people of Pennsylvania. And to top it off, he 'made light of it'.......basically laughing in their faces.

    We thought about Obama.........but not now.

    STRONELY for HIllary Clinton:)

    April 16, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  10. ***AMERICAN***

    I am just ready for someone to be Presidential. So far none of the candidates have.

    April 16, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  11. April in Texas

    Woot! Thanks again for the support super delegates... We do appreciate it.

    Obama 08

    April 16, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  12. Alex H

    When asked "is America ready to elect a black president," why can't all of these politicians just say "let's let the American people answer that with their votes"? Such a stupid question, I'm sick of hearing it.

    April 16, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  13. JOSH

    IT AMAZES ME AT HOW BLIND PEOPLE CAN BE. I KNOW TIMES ARE BAD AND WE NEED HOPE AND A GOOD LEADER BUT DO WE HAVE TO FOLLOW AROUND A PIED PIPER MAN WITH LOTS OF CHARISMA AND GIFT OF GAB AND THINK HE WILL BE A GOOD LEADER JUST BECAUSE HE SAYS SO? WHERES THE REAL PROOF HERE? HES SPENT MOST OF HIS CAMPAIGN TRYING TO GET OUT OF THE HEAT OF CONTROVERSY HIS OWN SELF CAUSED. "OH I MISSPOKE" WHILE PUTTING SMALL TOWN FOLKS DOWN OR "OH I SHOULDNT HAVE LET MY PASTOR TALK SO BAD BUT I STAYED 20 YEARS" OR "IM NOT REALLY AGINST THE NAFTA TRADE DEAL BUT DONT TELL NOBODY" OR "OH I SHOULDNT HAVE HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH LESKO, SORRY." PLUS OTHER THINGS–HIS WIFES LACK OF PATRIOTISM AND HIS TOO. HIS LACK OF A REAL CHRISTIAN WAY? THIS COUNTRY WAS BASED ON CHRISTIAN PRINCIPALS. ALL AFTER MOST OF THE STATES HAD VOTED ALREADY. ITS SO PLAIN HE HAS A HIDDEN AGENDA AND ALL YOU POOR BLIND FOLKS WENT ALONG WITH HIM. GOD HELP US ALL.

    April 16, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  14. Barb

    Is Michelle Obama working on the ticker today? It's completely one sided, I've seen good news for Hillary today, but not on this site!

    April 16, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  15. PA

    I am glad that African – Americans are starting to gain confidence in all Americans and are starting to believe that we are ready for a Black President. We are ready, waiting and can not wait until Barack Obama is our President because we honestly believe that he is real. He is who he claims to be. He will be a GREAT President!!!!!!!

    April 16, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  16. Celia Ann in Michigan

    Well, thank you Mel!!!

    I don't think young people are aware of that fight. The thing that is most surpisising to me is the that people do not see how desperate and personal this has become for both Clintons.

    Take a look at this:

    HW Bush (4 yrs)
    HW Bush (8 yrs)

    B Clinton (12 yrs)
    B Clinton (16 yrs)

    GW Bush (20 yrs)
    GW Bush (24 yrs)

    and now do we want this

    H Clinton (28 yrs)
    H Clinton (32 yrs)?????????????

    Come on now, enough is enough!!!

    April 16, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  17. Chut Pata

    Lots of African-Americans still do not believe Obama will get the nomination. If he gets, he will not win presidential election. Even if he wins, he will not be allowed to do what he is promising.

    However lot of them will still be voting for Obama as he offers hope, not guarentee, that he will bring a change.

    April 16, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  18. CHERYL FOR HILLARY

    HILLARY IS A CROOK AND A FRAUD (did I say that out loud)

    HILLARY WE LOVE YOU

    HILLARY 08

    April 16, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  19. Grif

    That's why they call it "Democracy"....

    April 16, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  20. honkey white guy from cali

    It is a very new day in America! and I will tell you this there is growth and changing that will have to take place on all sides to see race no longer be an issue! I think the biggest thing people need to understand is for people like Obama and many of the young people in America they no longer see the lines of race as easy as the older generation they still see them but they do not have the deep rooted emotion!

    Go Obama 08

    April 16, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  21. Stacy Clarks, TX

    ***************CHALLENGE TO DEMOCRATS*********************

    I AM CHALLENGING EVERY OBAMA SUPPORTER, AND HILLARY SUPPORTER TO SAY SOMETHING POSITIVE ABOUT THE OTHER CANDIDATE (YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SUPPORT THEM, BUT JUST SAY SOMETHING NICE) AND FOLLOW IT BY SAYING 3 NICE THINGS ABOUT YOUR CANDIDATE, AND WHY WE SHOULD VOTE FOR THEM….(POSITIVE CAMPAIGNING)

    LET'S TURN THIS WAR WE HAVE STARTED ON EACHOTHER IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY INTO POSITIVITY!!!

    I ENCOURGAE EVERYONE WHO THINKS IT WILL BE A DETRIMENT FOR THE REPUBLICANS TO WIN TO COPY THIS POST, AND PASTE IT ON EVERY BLOG YOU WRITE ON

    LET'S GO DEMOCRATS!!! LET'S GO AMERICA!!!!!

    ****************CHALLENGE TO DEMOCRATS*******************

    April 16, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  22. Lyz in MD

    If enough people believe that, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I have faith in America, so I support Obama.

    April 16, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  23. The O

    Some times it takes awhile to sink in but atleast it welcome aboard. As a black guy I can over look your earlier comments, becuase everyone makes mistakes.

    OBAMA 08/////

    April 16, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  24. Susan MO

    I am sorry I meant to say I am for OBAMA

    Go OBAMA 08

    April 16, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  25. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    DEMOCRATS WILL STAY UNITED AND TRUE TO OUR DEMOCRAT PARTY. REPUBLICANS, ARE CROSSING OVER TO THE DEMOCRAT PARTY AND THEY DESERVE OUR SUPPORT.

    April 16, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
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