Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

In Smalltown, U.S.A., Obama's campaign looks doomed

SEYMOUR, Ind. — Of course one shouldn't jump to conclusions talking to friendly voters in one small homogeneous community.

But in this south-central Indiana town where voter after voter casually dismisses the possibility of America electing a black president and in a week where Barack Obama's longtime pastor and friend is all over airwaves, it feels like a consequential shift has occurred in the Democratic primary.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's longshot bid to overtake Obama for the nomination suddenly seems not so far-fetched. But more clear, and sad, is the sense that this presidential race is now doomed to be mired in race, that Obama's promise to bridge racial divisions may be shattered.

"How did we get from point A to point B?" Mary Ann Pardieck, a law firm administrator and Obama supporter in Seymour, glumly asked Tuesday.

"Point A was this wonderful, hopeful period around Iowa when it seemed like we could get beyond all that," she said. "Now we've progressed into this morass. The campaign has degenerated into these conversations I don't want to be having and which I don't think are helpful to the country."

Clearly front-runner Obama understands he is at a perilous point in the campaign, with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright doing a media blitz that helped promote the damaging and growing narrative that Obama can't win crucial working-class white voters.

A day after brusquely dismissing Wright's comments before the National Press Club, the Illinois senator stepped before the cameras Tuesday to give a longer, full-throated denunciation.

"I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened by the spectacle that we saw yesterday," Obama said at a news conference in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Wright on Monday in Washington variously hailed the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, suggested the government may be responsible for spreading AIDS, said critics of him are attacking the African-American church, and implied that Obama might share those views even if he can't admit it for political reasons.

On Tuesday, Obama said: "I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992 and have known Reverend Wright for 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.

"What I think particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing. Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I'm about knows that I am about trying to bridge gaps and I see the commonality in all people."

Clinton received a badly needed burst of momentum last week when she handily beat Obama in Pennsylvania. If she defies expectations and wins Indiana and comes close to Obama in North Carolina, we'll know Obama is really damaged.

Ultimately the nomination will require uncommitted superdelegates to decide the best nominee for the party, and Obama needs to knock down the notion that he can't win over the kind of middle-class white voters that Democrats will need in November.

Indiana is unlikely to be in play in November, but Seymour, the place where rocker John "I was born in a small town" Mellencamp was born, is the kind of working-class, white community where Obama has often struggled to gain traction.

"Barack Obama will get some votes here, but in this city you'll find much more support for Hillary — and for McCain," said coffee shop employee Rob Malone, 31, an enthusiastic Clinton backer. "A lot of people,'' he lowered his voice, "aren't ready for a black president."

Margaret Hensley, an ardent Democrat from Seymour, lamented that Obama's background would make him much easier for McCain to beat.

"I'm scared to death that if he were elected there will be a shooting or a riot," she said.

Such sentiments are common in Seymour. Obama can only hope that cutting off his ties to Rev. Wright keeps them from spreading too far.

Adam C. Smith can be reached
at asmith@sptimes.com
or (727)893-8241.

In Smalltown, U.S.A., Obama's campaign looks doomed 04/29/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 2, 2008 9:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Navy parachutist dies during demonstration over Hudson River

    Military

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, a Navy Seal team member fell to his death Sunday after his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River.

    Officials surround a U.S. Navy Seal's parachute that landed in a parking lot after the parachutist fell into the Hudson River when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the river in Jersey City, N.J. The Navy said the parachutist was pronounced dead at Jersey City Medical Center. [Joe Shine | Jersey Journal via AP]
  2. As White House defends Jared Kushner, experts question his alleged back-channel move

    National

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration argued over the weekend that back-channel communications are acceptable in building dialogue with foreign governments, part of an effort to minimize fallout over White House adviser Jared Kushner's reported discussion about creating a secret conduit to the Kremlin at a Russian …

    President-elect Donald Trump embraces son in law Jared Kushner, as his daughter Ivanka Trump stands nearby, after his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of Nov. 9. [Mark Wilson | Getty Images]
  3. Sunstar ambulance unit overturns at Drew Street intersection in Clearwater, prompts road closures

    Accidents

    The intersection of Drew Street and Fort Harrison Avenue in Clearwater is closed following a crash that involved a Sunstar ambulance unit, according to the Clearwater Police Department.

    A Sunstar unit flipped in the intersection of Drew Street and Ford Harrison Avenue in Clearwater Monday morning after a car reportedly ran a red light and struck the ambulance, according to the Clearwater Police Department.
  4. Merkel spokesman: Germany still seeking stronger U.S. ties

    Nation

    BERLIN — Berlin remains committed to strong trans-Atlantic relations, but Chancellor Angela Merkel's suggestion after meetings with President Donald Trump that Europe can no longer entirely rely on the U.S. "speaks for itself," her spokesman said Monday

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech during an election campaign of her Christian Democratic Union, CDU, and the Christian Social Union, CSU, in Munich, southern Germany, Sunday. Merkel is urging European Union nations to stick together in the face of new uncertainty over the United States and other challenges. [Matthias Balk/dpa via AP]
  5. Tampa police: 46 arrests, 47 ejections at two-day Sunset Music Festival

    Public Safety

    Times staff

    TAMPA — In a preliminary tally Monday morning, police declared there were "no major incidents" during the two-day Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium but boosted the number of arrests and rejections they provided in earlier reports during the weekend.

    A Tampa Fire Rescue all-terrain vehicle patrols the parking area north of Raymond James Stadum on Sunday, day two of the Sunset Music Festival. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]