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. Eric - Chicago

    Writing in all capital letters does not make your post louder.

    I know you feel like shouting, but please.... for the sake of my eyes... stop posting in all caps!

    April 16, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  2. Trainer, MI

    Well, we're glad you're ready. Welcome aboard, it's never too late.

    Obama 08

    April 16, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  3. Tanya, GA

    I should also add that, unlike a lot of others, I will be voting for the democratic nominee no matter who it is.

    April 16, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |


    So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.


    April 16, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  5. Barb

    Picking Obama only because he is not a Clinton or Bush does not make sense. He makes so many mistakes and every time he does it sounds like his words come straight from the mouth of the Rev. Wright. I hope voters start looking at Obama instead of listening too him. Words are cheap.

    April 16, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  6. Anthony-Minneapolis,MN

    Susan from MO, Josh, Chut pata must be Republicans or just ignorant democrat hillary supporters. Every blog, every question a response as if they are 5th graders or people with Autism. When they slam Obama it isn't about things reported about his voting record or policy positions. Its because he is an effective speaker or he said something factual true but offended people or he wouldn't just go with the flow and throw his pastor under the bus as many other politicians have and would.

    He treats the american people like multi-faceted, intelligent, saavy complex individuals, the unfortunate part is that most of these people do not deserve such a distinction.

    Democrats are so scared that the Republicans will use X, Y or Z against Obama in the general election its pathetic to hear the Josh's, Susan's from MO state this weak case. John McCain is weak and vulnerable on so many issues. McCain isn't the strongest choice for Republicans, he is the one they are willing to sacrifice or believe its his turn due to his war hero status

    April 16, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  7. MD

    I have been sitting here trying to think of ONE good thing I might say about Hillary Clinton, but for the life of me, I can't come up with anything.

    As for three positive things about my cadidate:

    I don't like Hillary Clinton.
    I don't trust Hillary Clinton.
    I will not vote for a Republican ever again.

    GO OBAMA!!!

    April 16, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  8. NY Girl

    It just burns me, as an African – American female, statements like "America is not ready for a Black President." What exactly does that mean? When, I ask, would America be ready for a Black president?

    The answer is clear: Now. A true Black presdential contender is needed, (not that I'm discounting Jesse Jackson run) and long over do.

    Obama '08

    April 16, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  9. Gorbashov, Long Beach, Ca.


    April 16, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  10. Brooke

    Fortunately, this country is moving in the right direction where someone's skin colour or gender is getting less important. Is the USA ready for a black President? Certainly. Are we ready for Barack Obama in particular? Certainly not.

    April 16, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  11. Cynthia

    Why not? Black people have been voting for white candidates all of their voting lives. Just a thought.

    April 16, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  12. Hunter, MT

    I'm so glad Barack didn't wait for an answer to that stupid question. It's a dumb question–why wouldn't we be ready? We educate our children, so they will grow up to be leaders–it's a no brainer.

    I not only want a black president, but I want a president out of every product of our education system. We need more leaders, and we don't care what color they are.

    So parents start talking to your sons and daughters about the qualities Americans want in a president. One of those factors should never be race, or wealth. We're smarter than that–and our country is on the brink of showing how far we've come– to the rest of the world.

    Congrats Barack, your mother would be proud.

    April 16, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  13. soner

    the point is not whether a black can be president. the real question is that person no matter what color of his/her skin, male or female is really qualified to be president. could you do american people and the country that you have said you love so much a favor by listing all three candidates's qualification to be the president of america. today, we are facing two big challenges: economy and national security. we expect that our president should at least have a credential in one of them. start telling poeple who to vote base on your preference. oh jack, could you tell us whom you support because you said that in abc talk radio show friday morning.most of your viewers do not know.

    April 16, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  14. Jeff M.

    I will say that the other democratic candidate has just as much, if not more, experience as mine does when it comes down to it.

    However, I believe my candidate can do much more than the other to undo the image of an international bully that presidents in recent past have helped to establish.

    I believe my candidate is one of integrity and sometimes honest to a fault, even if not everyone appreciates it.

    I believe my candidate's plans for this country give greater weight to the possibility of acceptance by Congress (as it currently stands) than their own ideals.

    April 16, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  15. Vince Los Angeles, CA

    I can't believe that Hillary supporters are complaining about the support Barack Obama is getting from the African American community. The Democratic party has enjoyed YEARS of support from African Americans....support that I confess has been completely BLIND in its loyalty. Now for the first time in history, there is a candidate that listens to the people, comes from the people and has an agenda that is targeted towards the people. He also happens to be a candidate that African Americans can relate to, someone they can point at to their children and say "see....times have changed, Rev Wright is wrong...you can be ANYTHING you want in this country." Yet Hillary supporters are so close minded about thier support for Hillary that they attack Obama's AA support as racial. That's the reason I have left the Democratic party. They have finally raised the racist head I have ignored for so long. I'm African American AND Latino. I will never support tht Dem party again.

    April 16, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  16. Eddie

    I think Hillary is a good person,and I also think Bill was a good president.I just think Obama is what is needed now.Obama is going to help our country heal and renew our standing,he is not devisive,andhis greatest experience is knowing that people need to no the truth,regardless of whether they agree with it or not.The true definition of a leader is to have the ability to persuade others to work together for a common goal.

    April 16, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  17. Buffalo Bill, NY

    Stacy Clarks, TX April 16th, 2008 3:22 pm ET

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



    April 16, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  18. David!

    I campaigned for Harvey Gantt twice and still believe NC was lessened by having Helms as a senator. With that said, let me tell you, if you think Obama is qualified to be president, stop drinking the kool-aid!

    If Obama wins the Dem nomination, I'll either not vote at all, vote for a 3rd party, or maybe even vote for McCain.

    April 16, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  19. HH

    100 percent corrent Mr. Watt.

    First it was camparing him to Jesse Jackson when folks remember Jackson was in the top 3 in the 84 election and did win a few states, and South Carolina WAS A CAUCUS, not a PRIMARY.

    Then Geraldine 1 state Ferraro-If he was white he would not be where he is, he is lucky to be who he is. When she said the same thing about Jesse Jackson in 1984.

    Bob Johnson,Billy Shaheen-bringing up drug use, race, muslim smears. Etc.Etc.

    April 16, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  20. tracy adams

    I am really tired of the laughable comments from people who say they will vote for McCain if Hillary doesn't get the nomination. News Flash – she isn't going to get it and if you are silly enough to vote for another four years of Bush's policies by voting for McCain either 1) you never were going to vote democratic, 2)you really don't care what happens to your country,environment, the war, or your children's future, or 3)you really are just a really poor loser who only cares about yourself. In either event, we've heard enough from you.

    April 16, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  21. Frank F

    McCain (No Country for old Men) - Obama (No country for younger inexperienced men) - Hillary (Just the right age and experience to actually get things/action done, in this country)

    April 16, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  22. Huntingdon PA

    Obama is a liar and an elitist.

    Michelle Obama is nuts.

    April 16, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  23. David, Silver Spring, MD

    To Stacy Clarks, TX:

    Hillary Clinton has a strong command of the details.

    Barack Obama can see past the partisanship that has limited American politics for decades.

    Barack Obama has a logical mind capable of applying reason and not just emotion.

    Barack Obama seeks to succeed by doing good works, not by rigging the game.

    April 16, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  24. Bama A.T.

    I agree with Bubba

    April 16, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  25. OsamaObama

    Obama will be a good president but not president of america but president of speech, people fall on his good speech ... ..he`s too ambitious... inexperienced peson like Obama .

    April 16, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
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