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. Mike

    Obama better shut him up... I'm sure NC is proud of that statement!!!

    April 16, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  2. Chuck in Oregon

    Here we go again, some one bringing race back into politics. I am sorry but I do not see or listen in color. I look at the person and listen to their words, and when I doubt I even as questions. Has anyone every considered listening to the words, watching the deeds, and listening to the heart of the speaker? Close your eyes, and listen as if you really want to hear some day, you will hear differently.

    April 16, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  3. Maria

    Obama is challenging our minds. That's a President! I WANT CHANGE FOR A BETTER AMERICA AND FOR THE FUTURE OF OUR CHILDREN. This requires all Americans not to be afraid, or fear change. Be loyal to yourself that is what counts.

    April 16, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  4. Obama Supporter

    Well, at least he is willing to admit he is wrong. As a white woman, I thought that Obama would encounter some struggles due to race when I began supporting him more than a year ago – I know there are still people out there who judge people by skin color and not achievements. In fact, it resonated with me when Obama talked about people in his extended family making racial comments that made him cringe – I know there are some people in my family who I love who say things that make me sick and angry.

    I would never have guessed how much the Clinton campaign would have worked to make race an issue, however. Race really wasn't an issue in the campaign initially, I don't think, and then after South Carolina it was really injected into the campaign.

    I just wish the Clinton family would have had the decency not to go there. But mostly I'm excited that a majority of democrats (along with independents and Obamacans) are showing that they are willing to move beyond the racial divide. It is truly an exciting time for our country.

    April 16, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  5. Liz

    Why are we so hesitant to say things against Obama because he is black. He knew that his race would come into play and he decided to still to participate in the democratic nomination. Why are we sensitive about race? You call a spade a spade and thats the way life is. If you always have to watch what you say about Obama because its going to be taken as racism then that's not running a fair campaign. Obama is a blak man and if he cannot accept negative comments about himself and is always complaining about racism, then get out of the race.

    This is not a fair election race because any topic about Obama that his campaign people don't like to hear is always been called racism. The press is also playing up to it. If it was a white man running against Clinton you would hear alot of negative things about him by both black and white. But because Obama is black he is being treated with kid gloves. You either take the good with the bad or get out.

    Clinton will win the nomination and go on to win in November/08.

    April 16, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  6. Matt

    This is probably true. What's unfortunate is that race has overshadowed gender in this campaign. For every racially insensitive or questionable comment said during this campaign, there has been at least a sexist comment made. Sadly, these sexist comments generally are not condemned by the media – as is the case with the racist ones – and the media is often the offending party.

    And Celia Ann in Michigan...HW Bush only served one term. If you're going to make some absurd argument that Hillary shouldn't be president because her husband was and GW Bush and his father were, at least get it right.

    Frankly, I wish GW Bush hadn't been president, not because his dad was, but because he has been terrible. And if you want to get down to it, historians have now linked Obama to both the Bush and Cheyney families. I suppose we should all vote for McCain then to avoid the continuation of the Bush family dynasty?

    April 16, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  7. nelson

    Whenever Senator Obama has used the race card has played his tune. How about a fair and impartial media? How about a fair and impartial analysis? How about holding bigoted and sexist comments made by Senator Obama to the light? I am an American and democrat who loves this country. Hold us democrats accountable for our actions.

    April 16, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  8. Denis

    Well this Cathoilic (independent) vote is not up for grabs!!

    My vote goes to Hiilary if she is nominated and if she is not, the it will go to McCain.

    I cannot vote for Obama, not because it is a racial issue with me because if Colin Powell was involved, I would vote for him over all of the candidates that were in this years primaries regardless of party.

    Obama just seem to go on and on talking and promising everything to a point where it is difficult to listens to his speeches. And I have heard almost all the speeches that have been available on CNN.

    In my mind Obama simply has not explained himself satisfactorily on key issues regading his support for "Wright" and his relationship wit "Reszko". The latest issue is his comments about common Americans in how they rely on Guns and religion because they supposedly are bitter.

    I am amazed about the support he is receiving from politicians and how they seem to think that the issues listed above are not important. Well they are to most common standing Americans

    April 16, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  9. RT

    Stacy Clarks,

    The only thing positive I can say about Hillary Clinton is that she is a brilliant human being. Other than that, there are no positives that come to mind. Just lots and lots of negatives. It would be impossible for me to ever vote for her.

    April 16, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  10. Alex

    Barack Obama speeking to Philadelphia community leaders today:

    “Let me make one last point about the comparison to McGovern and Dukakis, both excellent men, but I’m a pretty darn good politician. And I can give a pretty good speech and I can connect and inspire the American people in ways that I think will become apparent. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t pretty good at mixing it up."

    Yup. Pretty much sums it up the way people are reposing drone-like faith in him.

    April 16, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  11. UNITED states



    April 16, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  12. Geez....

    I wish we had the same attitude about improving gender discrimination.

    April 16, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  13. hrao

    White guilt is talking? Nobody is ready for Obama – black, blue or purple period. He is too new and has not established his credentials – some voters are desparate because of the poor economic picture and they have become risk takers and are casting their vote for an unknown – this is like buying a lottery ticket – abosulutely irrational.

    April 16, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  14. Elisabeth

    "Obama was at Rezko house for party, witness testifies" why isn´t this story from yesterday still on "political ticker"? There is no question that CNN will not spin further this with negative pictures of Obama altough it could be serious. If all this controversial news had pertained to Hillary Clinton, it is hundred percent sure that CNN would have spun further to damage her being.

    April 16, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  15. Mike from Westchester

    Susan MO:

    Did you sign your post STONERLY for Hillary?

    Maybe that explains the suspension of reality.

    Seriously, I hope all those threatening to sit out in November or vote for McCain will consider:

    Make permanent the Bush tax cuts
    Try to win in Iraq (please define "win")
    The ability to appoint (pro-life??) Supreme Court Justices
    I don't know much about economics
    More deficits from war and tax breaks to the most wealthy
    Bomb, bomb Iran

    April 16, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  16. Emma

    ****************CHALLENGE TO DEMOCRATS*******************
    Ok Here Goes:

    Hillary clinton is strong woman who is a tenacious fighter.
    But I support Barak Obama because he says:
    1) that it is time for the us to come together as people and fight together
    2) that together we can make our politicians accountable for their lack of action
    3)that He is not the solution but we the people standing together will have a voive in his white house to start addressing the issue.
    So you see I don't see him as the solution but as part of the change we need to make. So let's come together and start talking about building back this country to its unlimited potential.

    April 16, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  17. CW4Barak

    I'm glad you finally saw the light and came on board!

    Obama '08

    April 16, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  18. kathleen retired Professional w/woman for obama

    Obama's popularity has nothing to do with race.
    he is loved by all that give him a chance. Obama
    brings hope and inspiration to a country that has
    been downtrodden for 8 years.

    Obama is not an "elitist" as Hillary calls him. Actually,
    Obama is just the opposite of an "elitist." That is why
    so many people love him. America has not seen
    or heard a man with the message of hope and inspiration
    in many, many years.

    April 16, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  19. bill

    Super Delegates please make up your mind. A late decision/endorsement will not be very well valued

    Obama '08

    April 16, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  20. Yol

    JOSH, YOUR COMMENTS 4/16/08 3:18 are based soley on your blindness. If this country was build on pure christianity then whey is it we have enslaved others. Maybe just your may be your great great granfather did not come to america with chains around his neck. So your views and experience should be different. But for the many millions that have had to uplift themselves from that mentality and the ones that are still struggling with emancipating their minds. I forgive you as you really do not know your history. Your obviously views as a blindfolded horse. Sorry.

    April 16, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  21. Simon Jinx

    To Stacy Clarks: I shouyld have never listened to you, I have spent 30 minutes trying to find something positive about Obama. What a waste of time!!!!
    Stop advising me! Pahhhlease!

    April 16, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  22. Rachel

    s a person fromanother country - why would you possibly want any other candidate but Obama. If the Clinto machine stopped throwing everything including the house at him, he wouldn't have to take so much time defending himself. Read his book the Audacity of Hope. He is a brilliant, brilliant man – and your only hope, I'm sorry to say.

    April 16, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  23. FEDUP

    Obama is a liar in the slimest way. To bundle money to avoid or rather attempt to avoid the big oil label is a slimmy lie. I blame the media for this race, gender fiasco. Obamas reference to," people who are not like them", only added fuel to the fire. We will lose in November if Obama is the nominee, it may be close, but the electorial college will give it to McCain. The big Blue states will determine the winner, add the little red states, that usually go Republicians and bingo, we get McCain. In a year that should have been a runaway for the dems. How sad is that?

    April 16, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  24. Tanya, GA

    Stacy Clarks I LOVE your comment. So many people cannot agree to disagree and it's really disappointing. I am a Barak Obama supporter, but that doesn't discount any of Hillary Clinton's experience, intelligence or ability. She is gritty and she is a fighter. I just happen to prefer Obama.


    April 16, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  25. Peter from Philadelphia

    Obama is not black; he is both white and black. Thank you!

    April 16, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
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