Earl Ofari Hutchinson

*Businessman and possible GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain delightedly told a group of conservative New Hampshire Republicans that they shouldn’t blame him for a “bad” black president.

The alleged “bad” black president of which Cain spoke is President Obama. Cain ripped Obama not because of anything specific Obama had done to raise his ire but to distance him as a potential black presidential contender from Obama. The former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza’s noise box remark about Obama was obviously intended to make clear that he shouldn’t be held accountable because he’s black for Obama’s alleged failing as president.

Cain’s preemptive racial strike to deflect race from being an issue if he runs raises two intriguing questions. The first is: will voters, especially white conservatives that Cain is aggressively courting, hold him to the same alleged low standard as a presidential candidate that they regard Obama? Cain banks that they won’t. But the evidence is against him on this.

In a 2006 study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, a Yale political economist found that in 2006 House races, Democrats were nearly 40 percent less likely to back a black Democratic candidate than a white Democrat. The shift by conservative-centrist white Democrats to GOP presidential contenders is a staple in recent American politics.

The first big hint that conservative white Democrats could cause problems for Obama came in the Democratic primary in Ohio during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary slugfest. Hillary Clinton beat out Obama in the primary and she did it mainly with white votes. But that wasn’t the whole story. Nearly one quarter of whites in Ohio flatly said race did matter in voting. Presumably that meant that they would not vote for a black candidate no matter how politically attractive or competent he was.

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