From Mike Allen's Politico Playbook:
The NYT's COOPER looks at the Obama camp's delicate balance on race.
'As Mr. Obama carefully addressed the issue on Friday, his campaign's formidable network of grass-roots activists, and the Web sites crafted to give them 'talking points' to carry into battle against Republicans, remained uncharacteristically quiet on the matter, even though the issue dominated political blogs for a second straight day.
'David Plouffe, the campaign manager, talked briefly, and not too eagerly, about it. And the campaign's chief strategist, David Axelrod, blamed the Republicans for misconstruing Mr. Obama's words as an attack, and quickly moved on.'
WASHPOST's Weisman and Murray report was the subtext - and sometimes the chief distraction - on the campaign trail Friday.
'Yesterday showed how hard it will be for both to avoid the issue now that it has burst into the public sphere. Obama was heckled in St. Petersburg by black nationalists who accused him of not doing enough for the African American community. In Florida's Panhandle, McCain faced a barrage of questions from reporters and asserted that he is not running a negative campaign 'in the slightest,' even as his aides launched their latest online attack ad mocking Obama as a candidate with a messiah complex.'
The balance transcends rhetoric. As the AP points out, Obama opposed offering 'reparations to the descendants of slaves, putting him at odds with some black groups and leaders.'
'The man with a serious chance to become the nation's first black president argues that government should instead combat the legacy of slavery by improving schools, health care and the economy for all.'
This position does not sit well with the NAACP and many Democratic lawmakers.
NYT's Bob Herbert accuses McCain of a nasty style of race-baiting.
'Now, from the hapless but increasingly venomous McCain campaign, comes the slimy Britney Spears and Paris Hilton ad. The two highly sexualized women (both notorious for displaying themselves to the paparazzi while not wearing underwear) are shown briefly and incongruously at the beginning of a commercial critical of Mr. Obama.'
'The Republican National Committee targeted Harold Ford with a similarly disgusting ad in 2006 when Mr. Ford, then a congressman, was running a strong race for a U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee. The ad, which the committee described as a parody, showed a scantily clad woman whispering, 'Harold, call me.' ...
'The racial fantasy factor in this presidential campaign is out of control. It was at work in that New Yorker cover that caused such a stir. (Mr. Obama in Muslim garb with the American flag burning in the fireplace.) It's driving the idea that Barack Obama is somehow presumptuous, too arrogant, too big for his britches - a man who obviously does not know his place.'
Tad Devine, speaking to the WASHPOST, says it's imperative Obama push back (on the race topic).
'Race is a central fact in the campaign. I think it's inescapable,' said Tad Devine, a strategist for Sen. John Kerry's campaign in 2004. 'It's smart to push back and push back hard. He's got to make sure that people's antennae are up and that the McCain camp cannot be allowed to send messages to people who are receptive to those messages.'