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Opinion

Why some blacks still might not vote for Obama

There are more factors than race. Just look to recent history for proof.

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But while conservatives are still a very distinct minority of black voters, it doesn't mean that all blacks will instinctively back a black candidate. Nowhere was that more apparent than the 2006 midterm elections.

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Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, pro football great Lynn Swann in Pennsylvania, and Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele – all Republicans – banked heavily on getting black voter support. In fact, none of the three black Republicans came anywhere close to getting a majority of the black vote. This was not an aberration.

Blacks have even backed white Democratic incumbents against black challengers in Democratic primaries. The issue for them was the real and perceived notion that the incumbent had done and would continue to do a better job in improving education, getting increased funding for job programs, and neighborhood services.

It's true that blacks have ritually given Democratic presidential candidates 80 to 90 percent of their vote since the 1960s, when Democrats embraced civil rights. But it's also true that a small percentage of black voters have backed white Republican presidential candidates even though the GOP turned a cold shoulder toward them for decades. To be sure, the small percent of blacks who say they would not vote for a black candidate reflect a number of lingering fears that need to be addressed.

It's worth remembering though that the overwhelming majority of black voters are thrilled to be supporting Obama.

When Obama needed a surge in the South Carolina primary in January, Oprah delivered. She made an impassioned pitch for Obama to mostly black audiences in South Carolina and they delivered. Thousands more turned out there than did in the 2004 Democratic primary and they gave him more than 90 percent of their vote. That type of support continued through the primaries.

But the few black who won't support Obama are proof that blacks, like anyone else, make political choices based on many factors – and color isn't always one of them.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is "The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House."

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