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. HSNP

    I read that the Rev. Wright went to an acclaimed, mostly Jewish, high school in Philly and that now his former congregants are building him a 10,000 SQUARE FOOT HOME on a golf course. Price – $1.6 million.

    So much for his poor upbringing that the good Senator Obama talked about.

    April 16, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  2. Keith

    This Obama supporter will vote for Hillary if she is the nominee. How's that.

    April 16, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  3. Sara from Arizona

    Obama 08", Renewal, vibrant, excellent speaker, energy, intelligent, just what America needs now, End the Bush and Clinton dynastys.

    April 16, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  4. Rick from Bowie

    I so sick of this nonesensical race crap. LET'S DISCUSS THE ISSUES LIKE SMART PEOPLE. This election can't be about race and I won't let it be. My 5 yr old daughter's future and the future of America is too important to let the media dumb this process down to pigment content, eye or hair color, height, weight or any other asinine measure that has not bearing on the issues.

    April 16, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  5. Jeff

    We're ready for a black president. We elected him to be our senator in Illinois and take the Presidency in 8 years. I live in a Republican part of Illinois and I knocked on doors for Obama. I love Obama and I love Hillary too. I've been active in the party since Gore lost. I want them both. I want the white house for the next sixteen years.

    April 16, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  6. Obama08 but...

    Does anyone know Obama's mother is white???? Doesn't this make hime half black, half white???? Why does everyone refer to him as a "black" contender??? He is white too!!

    Why if your'e half this, half that, you have to claim only one or the other??? Can't one take pride in both if one has to be prideful in a skin color??

    April 16, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  7. Peter

    Sorry, Mel, it's not about race, it's about competence and your candidate loses.

    April 16, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Obama exemplifies his qualifications to be president by how he runs his campaign, how he relates to people, and his judgement and intelligence. You can have the experience, but lack the special qualities that make you a good leader. Opponents keep talking about experience because they have nothing else to say or don't want to say what they really think. We are living in a new era where "old politics" and divisive ways of doing things don't resonate with the vast majority of intelligent autonomous individuals. We have evolved to something much better. I look forward to an Obama presidency.

    April 16, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  9. Mike

    Bill Clinton says that Older Voters will not vote for Barrack. What does Billary mean? Does he mean voters so old that they think Blacks have to use separate restrooms. Come on Bill! You just get worse every time you speak.

    April 16, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  10. Rick from Bowie

    Thanks congressman now go wake up Pelosi and work on all of things you said you would do for America. By the way, we still have 150K strong in Iraq...any idea when we can bring them home? Hey, this media censorship in Iraq...any idea when America can get a news feed from the "embedded" read censored media and not have to rely on a real news agency like the BBC to get accurate , unbiased updates? Turn the mics off pls....

    April 16, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  11. Gavin

    Barack Obama is a joke -how dare he generalize voters of small towns saying they become xenophobics because of bitterness...



    April 16, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  12. Eminem in GA

    I liked her black suit with the gold trim...there, i said something nice!
    **hitting 'Submit Comment' quickly before i add something else – lol

    April 16, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  13. Don in Florida

    I'm an Obama Supporter; However, i voted twice for Bill Clinton. He seemed to be one of us regular people. Whey he got elected I felt that they were probably the most intelligent couple to ever occupy the White House. You can't take anything away from Hillary, she is sharp as a tack and I admire her and Bill greatly. But this time i'm voting for Obama, I feel his election to the presidency will help restore America's status in the world as the place where anything is possible as long as you're willing to work hard. I feel that only as a last resort do we think about going to war but only after every last bit of diplomacy has failed and we are left with no other choice. Only through diplomacy can we really hope to achieve a lasting peace.

    April 16, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  14. Sherylanne

    If by some chance Obama gets the nomination, he will never sit in the White House as Commander in Chief.

    The news media made this race into a racial issue and they still keep on feeding the fire.

    At least he might be able to boast how far he came, but the ultimate prize will not be his.

    April 16, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  15. jj

    we are ready for a black president, just not Obama yet, he needs to have more experience, sorry but too much has come out about his mentor, I have a hard time getting past someone who listened to that kind of hate and racism for 20 years and then tries to blame others. And expecially in a church that I thought was to do Gods teaching and praise.

    April 16, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  16. JIm in North Carolina

    If Pennsylvania doesn't put an end to the misery of Hillary's failed campaign, North Carolina will!

    April 16, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  17. donna4hillary

    ok i will take you up on that. Hers my 1 nice thing about the opposition:

    Sen Obama has two very beautiful daughters.

    Heres 3 good things about Hillary:
    I have met her and she does not exude elitism
    She has been helping people all of her lives
    She loves politics and is, therefore, experienced

    Now, you may not believe it ,and you probably dont but , this is my list and I believe in it.

    April 16, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  18. Michael, North Carolina

    Yes as I have said before. Sen. Clinton has taken the "bitter" comment out of text. As far as I am concerned the world ELITIST=UPPITY AS AN OBAMA SUPPORTER HAD MENTIONED.

    I know Sen. Obama may not agree with that, and I understand his point, because if he did, SEN. CLINTON WOULD BE SAYING THAT HE IS PLAYING THE RACE CARD. But in fact it has been Sen. Clinton and former president Clinton who have injected race into this campaign all the way back to Iowa, with Bill Clinton's comment that Sen. Obama's campaign is nothing more than a "FAIRY TALE."

    So I would like for Sen. Clinton to step up to the plate an start talking about the issues again. Instead of playing this childish negative politics of he said, she said. The American people are drawn to Sen. Obama because he is HONEST, SINCERE, AND BRINGS HOPE TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.


    April 16, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  19. Tom,des moines


    April 16, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  20. phillykat

    Barack-udaaaaaaaa!!!! (copyright) ha ha ha haaaa
    Well, it IS the silly season!
    Vote hope not fear


    April 16, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  21. tell the truth

    Chuta Pata. I'm supporting Obama because he address my needs. Gas price,job lose, food prices, taxes breaks, things that will affects me and my children. I could care less about his skin color. I could care less about Clintion gender or McCain age. I vote with facts and issues. This is why I'm voting Obama. Look at issues and you would vote Obama. Vote with anger and your heart equal McCain or Clintion.

    April 16, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  22. CNN - Get With It!

    Please cover the story that Obama REALLY HAS BEEN taking money form lobbyists and claims not to. He keeps pointing fingers. Obama is a hypocrite and a liar.

    Hillary or John

    April 16, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  23. Obama the Great Deceiver

    America is totally ready for a GOOD president in whatever color or gender. But please, Barack Obama is not ready to be President. He is a good talker and a likeable guy, but that does not equal good president. If Colin Powell was running for the White House, i really don't think his race would even have been an issue. But thats just my opinion.

    April 16, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  24. AZM

    Positive Thinking Challenge!

    BHO is very dedicated and loyal to his friends like Joey Reznik and the Rev Wright...

    HRC is quick to recant when she says something stupid...
    Bill would make a terrific first lady
    They would be good for the economy because they've gone from nothing to 100 Million in net worth in eight years so they must be doing somethin right.

    That wasn't so hard!

    April 16, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  25. Steve

    I was in NC when the Helms Gantt fight took place. There are definite parallels. Gantt was a good, solid guy (African American). He had good ideas and spoke eloquently about ways to make NC a better place. Jesse Helms, who had been representing NC since the time of Paul Revere, was starting to lose in the polls, even though he was old school, and had been in place for a long time. Many people were tired of him. What did Jesse do? He pulled out all the mud-slinging stops, stating all kinds of "facts" about Gantt, including making veiled references that Gantt was a homosexual (he wasn't). Gantt refused to be drawn into a mud-slinging contest, and tried to keep things professional. Jesse filled the airwaves with accusations and misrepresentations. People believed him and re-elected him. He won the election standing on a pile of absolute BS.

    April 16, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
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