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“This is a country that is looking for a fundamentally different direction, and John McCain offers nothing but the status quo,” said spokesman Bill Burton, adding that he wasn’t “losing any sleep” over Obama's rough patch.
The campaign’s confidence may turn out to be justified, but two weeks prior to the national convention there are more than a few worrisome signs for Obama. Here are seven:
1. Race. “The idea that Obama was going to win in a blowout was always preposterous,” says former Nebraska senator and onetime presidential hopeful Bob Kerrey, an Obama backer. “A big piece of this, of course, is whether white people are going to support a black guy. ... If [Obama] is a tall, skinny white guy named Paul Jones, it's a different story.”
Obama is running nearly neck-and-neck with McCain among white voters in most polls, a major cause for optimism considering that John Kerry lost the white vote by 17 points and that Al Gore lost it by 12 points. Among whites, he does well with women, the affluent and college grads but fares poorly among low-income earners and Catholics — key swing groups that handed Hillary Rodham Clinton stunning blowouts in West Virginia and Kentucky.
How much does his race factor into tightening contests in Missouri, Wisconsin, Florida, Minnesota and Ohio? Nobody knows — and that’s the problem.
A huge challenge for Obama, insiders say, is simply determining how much skin color will matter in November. Race is nearly impossible to poll — no one ever says “I’m a racist” — and no campaign wants it revealed they are even asking questions on the issue.
“It’s the uncertainty that kills me — we know it’s going to be factor, but how big a factor?” asks a Democratic operative with ties to the Obama camp. “How do you even measure such a thing?
Adding to the jitters: GOP surrogates like New York Rep. Peter King have vowed to make Obama’s relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright a centerpiece during the homestretch.
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