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The ease of identity politics

From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
I'm sitting in the rear pew at the Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church here in St. Louis, following Hillary Clinton on what has become her almost weekly pilgrimage to a black church.

Obama has an ad in the St. Louis American, a black newspaper found just outside the sanctuary. The ad reads in part: "Vote Tuesday February 5th. Throughout our history African-Americans have been motivated not by fear, but by hope for a better future. On Tuesday, February 5th Missourians can send a message to the rest of the country by voting for Barack Obama -- the candidate who can deliver change we can believe in." The ad tells readers when the polls open and close and provides a number for them to dial to find out where to vote.

(Note, the paper endorses Obama in this issue. It also includes a column by the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, which is headlined as "Bill race-baits Obama (again)")

Identity politics is so easy, so simple that perhaps it's unavoidable -- hence the "Women for Hillary" buttons seen on lapels for months and the "African-Americans for Hillary" buttons I saw this past week in Little Rock. This is all understandable, but I still think both candidates are trying to have it both ways, claiming they aren't asking for support based on race and/or gender while playing up these distinctions at the same time.

Incidentally, polls show Clinton with a slight edge in a tight race here in Missouri, so it was no surprise to see Obama staffers and reporters in the lobby when we arrived at our hotel sometime after 2 am last night.