A Chicago reader writes:
As an Illinois observer I'm still fascinated to see whether Obama can reel in black voters in the last month or two of this primary race, just as he did here in 2004.
It's remarkable how little Obama has focused on black voters until now, but that may have been a savvy move. Fair or not, many African-American candidates get pidgeonholed as having only niche appeal. But Obama has spent all this time branding himself as a candidate who strives to transcend race, so that now when he has to campaign hard in the black community in South Carolina and elsewhere people don't see him as limited to one constituency. Oprah is the perfect metaphor for that strategy. He's trying to get the best of both worlds.
It worked in 2004. Two months before that Democratic primary, Obama was polling only 29% of the black vote, and was mired in the pack with 14% overall. Less than a month before the election, Obama polled at 38% of the black vote. But just three weeks later his black support had surged to 62% in the final poll before the election. On election day he commanded more than 90% in many mostly African-American wards.
The Chicago Tribune post-election analysis noted,
"Early in the campaign, there were questions whether Obama, a Harvard-educated lawyer who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii and now lives in Hyde Park, had established a credible relationship with Chicago's black community."
(Photo: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty.)