In an effort to preempt what could be a damaging political issue for President Obama’s re-election campaign, Democrats are warning Republicans against reviving his relationship with controversial ex-pastor Jeremiah Wright.
And in one case, a Democratic operative is getting ahead of any discussion of Wright by implying that raising the issue amounts to playing the race card.
Ted Devine, a Democratic operative who worked for Al Gore and John Kerry, recently accused Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign of using a images of a black church in an ad “to bring back Rev. Wright and race.”
“As someone who does this for a living, there is absolutely no way that’s not intentional,” Devine told The Hill about the video, which doesn’t include any mention of Wright but does feature two brief cutaway shots to an all-black audience. “There is no other rational explanation for that scene other than to suggest a racial reference, and most likely invoke Jeremiah Wright.”
Drew Westin, a professor at Emory University and a prominent progressive commentator, also saw racial overtones in the Romney ad.
“There are three things about the racial composition of the people in the background: For Obama, whenever they’re shown clearly, they’re a mix of whites and blacks. Whenever they’re either presented in dark light so you can’t see, or presented at a speed that makes them subliminal, they’re all black,” Westin told the Huffington Post last week.
“For Romney, there isn’t a black person in the background in any of the scenes he’s in. It’s inconceivable that his team didn’t think to make sure there was at least some diversity in the crowds he was speaking to unless the goal was to juxtapose subliminal black people against white people for Romney,” Westin said.
Pollster Doug Schoen, a Democrat who has been critical of Obama’s performance as president, told The Daily Caller that it would be “wrong-headed” for Republicans to discuss Wright because the issue has “no relevance to this campaign or to Obama’s first term.” (RELATED: Exclusive video: Obama in 2006: I ‘stole’ book title ‘Audacity of Hope’ from ‘my pastor’)
“[It] would be over-reaching and could well backfire against the Republicans,” he added.
During the 2008 election, videos showed Wright famously denouncing the U.S. government during religious services, even saying at one point, “Not God bless America, God damn America!”
The title for Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope,” came from a sermon delivered by Wright. Before controversy erupted during the 2008 election over Wright, Obama praised his former pastor, including in a new video from 2006 published by TheDC this week.
If Democrats are able to remove the issue of Wright from the table by associating it with playing the race card, it could be a major win for the White House and their efforts to appeal to white voters.
A recent study by the liberal Center for American Progress found that Obama would have to win either 47 percent of college-educated white voters or 41 percent of all white voters in order to be re-elected.
Obama won 47 percent of college-educated white voters and 43 percent of all white voters in 2008. But if he fails to meet at least one of the thresholds outlined in the study; white working-class voters could doom his re-election campaign if they turn out for the GOP nominee like they did for Republican candidates in 2010.
However, in terms of strategy, one Republican operative said it’s not necessary to revive the issue.
“Honestly it’s probably not a useful or productive line of attack at this point,” Michael Goldfarb, a former 2008 McCain campaign aide, told TheDC.
“It strikes me that bringing up Wright is not just unnecessary, but a distraction from Obama’s egregious record,” Goldfarb said.