Friday, January 19, 2007

This extraordinary story in the LAT: the gist of which is that not only hasn't Barak Obama tied up support in the African-American community, he very likely never will. The story itsself is another example as to why Peter Wallsten is one of our great political reporters.

Here is his lede and a some key passages:

"As pastor of the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Sumter, S.C., the Rev. James Blassingame feels pride at the thought of electing the country's first black president. But Blassingame, one of his state's most prominent black ministers, will not support Sen. Barack Obama's bid to achieve that historic goal.Instead, the minister will campaign for one of Obama's white rivals for the Democratic nomination, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

"Obama, he said, is a `stranger" with a faraway home and little-known biography, whereas Edwards — `he's a homeboy.' Other black leaders are wary that the relatively untested senator from Illinois might prove weak in the general election.

"`Obama's ambition could bring all of black America down," said state Sen. Robert Ford of South Carolina. "If the Democrats lose control of Congress, we're going to go back and struggle and struggle and struggle'...

'Obama is the only top-tier African American seeking the nomination, but he will have to fight for black votes along with other candidates, some of whom have far stronger ties to black leaders than he does.

"Edwards, for example, is expected to have an advantage in his native state of South Carolina, and his pledges to fight poverty and bring troops home from Iraq are popular with black leaders.
"Clinton, the presumed Democratic front-runner, has decades-old ties with scores of black preachers and civil rights leaders who remain close to her husband, former President Clinton.

"A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg survey in December found that all three were popular among black voters, but that Clinton received the highest marks. Blassingame speaks fondly of Edwards, who, like the pastor, was born in Seneca, S.C. "I know where he came from, because I came from there," Blassingame said. "I can identify with him, and he can identify with us."

To read the whole thing, click here.

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