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. Rena

    What I can't understand is why not give this man a chance? We've given all the other hyprocrites, liars, cheats, and killers an opportunity to run this country and look where we are at. Ya'll keep screaming he has no experience well the suppose to be experienced is in the white house and has been there for quite sometime and where has he got us in debt that is long as the Chattanooga River, a war that has caused nothing but death, pain to families, billions of wasted dollars, and a broken economy. So really Obama can't do any worst, the worst has already been done. Get over yourself, ya'll make me sick. The bottom line is is that America would rather spite their face than to be lead by a black man who is trying to help your crazy behinds.

    Go ahead put your Wealthy Hillary or McCain in office and see where they are going to take you. They don't care about you or your struggles fools, remember they are RiCH nothing will affect them one way or another. You will be crying another 4 years and you will rightfully deserve. You get what you ask for. I am so sick of you people; our soldiers are over there dying at the foolish decisions of those in the white house. If these people where so experienced why are our soldiers over there dying in vain. I AM AN ANGRY MILITARY SPOUSE WHO IS FEED UP WITH THIS CRAZY COUNTRY. OUR LOVES ONE ARE OVER THERE FIGHTING FOR THEIR LIVES NOT THIS COUNTRY BECAUSE WE SHOULDN'T EVEN BE OVER THERE.

    April 16, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  2. sorry we lose

    The democratic party has been experiencing a slow split for the last 10 years.

    Obama has accentuated and capitalized on that schism for personal political gain.

    On one side you have the left wing elitists who intellectually embrace the idea of equality- but can not and do not put it into practice.

    They continue to look down their noses at the less fortunate, who they label uneducated, and then profess to want to "save them".

    They support Obama. Because of his skin color, African Americans also overwhelmingly support him, regardless of political, educational or economic position.

    On the other side you have the lifelong democrats who are more centrist and populist. They believe in democracy and have protested marched and worked for equality. They see all Americans as one people with a shared future. They support Clinton.

    We WILL NOT come together just for party loyalty and unity in Nov. We have a right and an obligation to support the BEST Candidate.

    Hillary Clinton is the best candidate and will make a great president.

    April 16, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  3. Jan E

    Hey Stacy Clarks, TX, I will take your challenge. I believe in my heart that Hillary is a good well intentioned leader. Started her political career fighting against injustice and powers in Washington. I think she can do the job of a president if she steps back and goes to her roots in politics. I liked her and liked President Clinton for a long time. Having said that, I think the past 16 years have taken her in the wrong direction and have changed her. I believe that Obama has more capacity to lead this country and bridge the divides.

    April 16, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  4. Ilona Proud Canadian

    Alex H. I agree with you whole heartedly, let the people decide,and you know something "THEY ARE DECIDING"

    April 16, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  5. Tom,des moines

    People,If you what you know what's Hussein Obama believe in or what's he stand for? Look no further then whose is his friends and mentor were. People like Al Sharpton,Jesse jackson,Bill Ayer,Tony Resko,Louise Farrakhan and Rev.Wright.

    April 16, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  6. Nobillary Andobama

    Obama's race has nothing to do with his ability to hold the highest public office in the land.....only the stupid and the ignorant will let that factor into their decision (unfortunately there is no shortage of those types around)

    What is relevant is whether or not Obama is fit to hold the highest office in the land...and the answer is clearly NO!

    I am begging this guy to say something substantive from a foreign policy and National Security Strategy point of view.

    He is very good at looking pretty and making a rousing speech and sprinkling the words "Change" and "Hope" into these speeches....but when you start to peel the onion back there are absolutely no concrete solutions to the issues America faces other than what ever Bush did was wrong.

    What experience does this guy have when it comes to dealing with the persistent threat of Islamic terrorists? A two day trip to Iraq and another trip to Africa??? Has he ever served in a position of great responsibility in the Armed Forces or State Department??? Does serving 3 years on the Senate Foreign Relations committee qualify as significant experience???

    Where is the substance?

    "HOPE" is not a method....only a nice sound bite

    April 16, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  7. Myra

    Hillary is very intelligent and makes a very good senator.

    Barak was born to be president.

    April 16, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  8. Mike

    Race and gender are the dominate topics between the democratic contenders. This is what happens when you have two Affirmative Action candidates as your choice for nominee.

    These two make John Kerry look good.

    April 16, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  9. Delaware

    Hillary Clinton is exaggerating her experience and her trip to Bosnia by putting more than there was to the story. At 60 there is no way you can lose your memory unless your brain is dead. These are all lies; there was no snipers fire.
    Anyway what is the trade deal with Columbia is all about. You cannot go and have trade deal with country that does fallow US policies. What is the next trade deal for Clinton? May be Iran, Cuba, Libya, Syria, Sudan, or communist Korea.

    April 16, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. sophia nyc

    Celia Ann in Michigan--

    Then We'll have Jeb Bush after 8 years of Clinton. So to add to your stats:

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

    Jeb Bush (28 yrs)
    Jeb Bush (32 yrs)

    Then Chelsea Clinton will run...

    April 16, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  11. Hank, OR

    It's not about race, it's about leadership. And Obama is my choice to be my American leader.

    Obama all the way.

    April 16, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  12. sophia nyc

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

    Hillary is better than McBush.
    That hurt but I meant it.

    Obama '08

    April 16, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  13. Ilona Proud Canadian

    Folks have you been listening to Hillary's speech today? I have never seen anyone do such a complete about face. She actually admitted that Sen. Obama is a "Strong Candidate". Do you think her campaign strategists are getting the message that their slander and kitchen sink strategy is not working? I am not sure, it may very well be the calm before the storm. I don't trust anything coming from that campaign.

    April 16, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  14. Ivan, Chicago, Illinois

    If Obama is the nominee, then we will see if the country is ready for a Black President.
    That would indeed by a giant leap, because in 2006 there were two Black candidates who both lost to White opponents.
    Obama won his Senate seat running against a Black opponent and now he is going to run 50 state wide races for the Presidency.
    For Obama to win the economy would have to tank like it did for the Carter and Reagan presidential race. Otherwise McCain will win.

    April 16, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  15. sacto joe

    Obama is as much a white as a black. Perhaps that has something to do with his success. And maybe that's why he's so good at seeing all sides of an issue.

    April 16, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  16. Amber

    Stacy, I like your positive approach as I've seen it on other comment sections on CNN-

    Hey "honkey white guy from cali" I really hate calling you this but it's the name you chose.

    I agree with your statements 100%. I am so tired of blacks, whites, latinos, etc making this into a HUGE race issue. For those of you who disagree try visiting a chat session on yahoo in the politics room and you'll see what I mean. Today I visit a chatroom in politics to engage in what I thought would be "interesting chat". It disappointed me to see such cruel words from all cultures bashing each other with racial slurs, nasty words, you name it. If the Democrats plan on taking back the White House then we need to look beyond race or skin color because underneath "flesh and blood is all the same color".....

    Obama gives "Americans" hope for change in this country. It's amazing how race can get in the way of our country being able to experience this change. We all know that Mccain is going to take us through another 4 years of Bush policies, I don't know about most of you but my pockets can't afford it. We all have to admit that our economy was much better when "Bill Clinton" a democrat was in office. Not to take anything away from "Hillary" I realize she's a Clinton but the tone of her campaign back after Feb 5th when she lost a lot of states has been nothing but negative and attempts to tear Obama down. Notice how when Obama was behind in delegates, he didn't tear her down intentionally they had their debates and disagreements but there was a level of "respect involved". That is why I don't wish to support "Hillary" at this time, however if she's our nominee then my position has to change because I would rather endure "Hillary" anyday then Mccain.

    Wake up Democrats, no matter who wins the nominee we must rally behind them, quit being sore losers and take over the White House, we won the House of Rep majority back we CAN DO THIS!!!!!

    April 16, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  17. Fed up in Texas

    CNN.....yahoo news is doing a story on Obama being tied to Lobbyist? Where's your story at?

    April 16, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  18. Pooh496

    As most of you already know, Barack Obama has gotten himself into another controversy regarding his apparent arrogance and apathy towards regular Americans. In a private and well shrouded fundraiser amongst the rich elite of San Francisco, and in the mansion of Pakistan native and ardently Muslim millionaire Sohaib Abbasi (CEO of Informatica), Obama was recorded saying: “You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then 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.” In the same speech, Obama is also recorded as saying that: “When people tell me they’ve all stressed about racial discord, well, you know, try slavery for a while,” obviously playing on the sentiments of these highly affluent (White and Arab) people who would basically presume that if you have dark skin in America you must therefore be connected in some way to slavery, although, as we all know, this is CLEARLY not the case.

    April 16, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  19. dave

    regarding the comment by PENN congressman murtha (clinton supporter) that mccain is too old to be prez.... 1. this is flat out
    an ageist comment, which is the last bastion of prejudice yet to be conquered, not only in america but globally..... sexism is wrong, racism is wrong, and ageism is wrong..... and 2. the world
    has had quite a few leaders who excelled far past age 70, including churchill and de gaulle (whether or not you agreed with de gaulle, or liked or hated his ideas, his age is not a factor in your like or dislike of de gaulle as prez of france).....

    April 16, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  20. NickNas

    I am getting closer and closer to saying I was wrong too. I told my girlfriend when this all started that the racist elements of this country would bury Obama. Although it is running rampant it seems like time are trying very hard to change.

    Still watching though. This isn't over yet.

    April 16, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  21. vince - Phoenix - (forgive me cnn, for I have sinned)

    Stacy Clarks, I accept your challenge.. I am as ardent an Obama supporter as exists. I have donated. I have blogged. I have plead his case to anyone who would listen. I am 42, married, father of two, educated, black, and a student of politics. (I am everything Obama's demographics are 'supposed' to be– whatever that means)..

    HOWEVER.. as 'bitter' as I have become towards Hillary, i will say this "nice" thing about her :

    she would make a president that the rest of the world respect.

    I now challenge an ardent Hillary supporter to reciprocate a POSITIVE truth regading Senator Obama.

    April 16, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  22. Delaware

    Stop all the division about race and let us elected a good democratic president in the white house. Obama has no explanation to make to no body or no race group because he did not mention any race that was bitter with guns and religion. The comment was about Americans that live in rural PA and I far that I am concern there are all different races of people living in those region.
    People come on! This is almost the end of the 21st century and you have not over this nonsense yet. America if you did not know is a country that is compose of many races of people and I do not think there is a single one of us that is more American than others.

    April 16, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  23. Paul



    HILLARY 08!!!

    April 16, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  24. Eddie

    I really have to acknowlege,Clinton is in touch with a certain part of the American population Old white racist,elites,and bitter women.I wonder why bobble head johnson have not said she is where she is because she is a white woman.Just saying,without the old white woman vote she would just be Huckabee.Do not fret,your day is coming.

    April 16, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  25. Helene

    Unfortunately when you read many of these blogs, it is incredible how many people are racists (and supporting Clinton by the way). There is a lot of education to be done in this country.

    April 16, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
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