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John Sununu and Obama: Time to talk openly about race in Election 2012?

Romney co-chair John Sununu called Colin Powell's endorsement of President Obama racially motivated. It shows how talk about race in Election 2012 has been through insinuations and insults.

By Correspondent / October 26, 2012

Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu speaks during a press conference in the Republican National Committee war room situated in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., during the Democratic National Convention in September.

Lynne Sladky/AP/File

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Washington

Is it time to start talking openly about race in the 2012 campaign?

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Correspondent

Liz Marlantes covers politics for the Monitor and is a regular contributor to the Monitor's political blog, DC Decoder.

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Make no mistake: The topic has been a steady undercurrent throughout much of this election cycle. Unfortunately, for the most part, the discussion has been largely confined to ugly insinuations and counter-insinuations. Democrats have repeatedly accused the Romney campaign of using racial “dog whistles” to try to peel off support from working-class whites, while Republicans have complained about what they see as unfair accusations of racism.

One of the most frequent offenders along those lines from Democrats’ point of view, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, stirred the pot again Thursday night. Appearing on CNN, the national co-chair for the Romney campaign told host Piers Morgan that he believed Colin Powell’s endorsement of President Obama was essentially based on race.

Mr. Sununu said: “I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being president of the United States – I applaud Colin for standing with him.”

He later walked back his comments, issuing a statement saying he believed Mr. Powell’s endorsement was based on “his support of the president’s policies.” But Sununu has previously come under fire for other remarks perceived as having racial implications, such as calling the president “lazy,” and saying he wished he would “learn how to be an American.”

It all raises a larger point, however – that perhaps the time has come (some might say it's way past time) to have a serious discussion about the role race is playing in the campaign.

According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, the 2012 election is, as The Post put it Friday, “shaping up to be more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988.” The poll found Mr. Obama is currently losing whites to Mitt Romney by 60 to 37 percent, putting Obama dangerously below the 40-percent mark that most analysts believe he needs to hit among whites in order to win reelection.

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