As he began his second year in office, Obama’s presidency was not going well. His legislation to overhaul the healthcare system was still bogged down in Congress. The unemployment rate, which polls showed was the top concern of most Americans, remained stubbornly high at about 10 percent, and much worse in many African-American communities. Obama’s job-approval ratings had dropped markedly from the astronomical levels of his first few months to below 50 percent.
Adding to his woes, in January 2010 the race issue erupted again in an unusual and unexpected way. Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader and an Obama ally, was embarrassed because of some racially insensitive comments he had made to John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, the authors of a new book, Game Change, about the Obama campaign. It turned out that Reid had predicted in 2008 that Obama could succeed as an African-American presidential candidate partly because he was “light-skinned” and because he didn’t speak with a “Negro dialect.”