Obsessing Over Republican Race Cards Against Obama

Times editor Marcus Mabry's front-page story for the Sunday Week in Review, "Where Whites Draw the Line," pondered how Republicans would play the race-card against a "post-racial" candidacy like Obama's.

How black is too black?

Millions of African-Americans celebrated Barack Obama's historic victory, seeing in it a reflection - sudden and shocking - of their own expanded horizons. But whether Mr. Obama captures the White House in November will depend on how he is seen by white Americans. Indeed, some people argue that one of the reasons Mr. Obama was able to defeat Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was that a large number of white voters saw him as "postracial."

In other words, Mr. Obama was black, but not too black.

But where is the line? Does it change over time? And if it is definable, then how black can Mr. Obama be before he alienates white voters? Or, to pose the question more cynically, how black do the Republicans have to make him to win?

Mabry is very concerned about hypothetical Republican racial attacks on Obama (never mind accusations of Hillary Clinton's race-baiting during the primary). He wrote on the Times' front page last Thursday:

There remains a fear that race, which loomed large in some primaries and has previously been successfully employed as a political wedge by Republicans, might yet keep Mr. Obama from capturing the White House.