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Race front and center


In the presidential contest four years ago, race was always an issue -- either explicitly or implicitly -- due to Barack Obama's candidacy.

But four years later, with the Obama-Romney general election now underway, race largely seemed to be relegated to the periphery, at least when it comes to the media's coverage or when compared with 2008.

Until now.

A New York Times report on a conservative Super PAC proposal to link President Obama to Rev. Jeremiah Wright as part of a $10 million advertising campaign has pushed race to the forefront of today's political news -- perhaps more than at any other time of this fledgling general election.

Even the 54-page proposal referred to the possibility that race would become a topic if the ads aired.

The instant response liberal give to any attack is to deem them attack as racist. In the case involving an African American president, even more so.

We have two ways to help mitigate the potential. First, include an extremely literate, conservative African American in our spokesman group... The second way we will lessen their ability to attack from a racist angle is to carefully utilize a series of focus groups. First on the storyboards, then on a rough cut of the final film, making fine-tuning adjustments in wording and visuals to increase the impact, while lessening any elements that could reasonably be deemed "racist."

The conservative billionaire who received the proposal, Joe Ricketts, today rejected it after the New York Times story appeared.

In recent days. race also has resurfaced in more subtle ways. A few days ago, Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO) recently questioned whether Obama was born in the United States, and he stated definitively that Obama is "not an American" in his heart. So-called "birther" questions about Obama's citizenship, his supporters have argued, have had a racial subtext.

"I don't know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States or not. I don't know. But I do know this: That in his heart, he's not an American. He's just not an American." His audience applauded after those remarks.

According to NBC's Frank Thorp, Coffman today apologized. "I misspoke and I apologize. I have confidence in President Obama's citizenship and legitimacy as President of the United States. However, I don't believe the President shares my belief in American Exceptionalism."

And yesterday, the American Prospect reported on this movie trailer based on the controversial book by Dinesh D'Souza, "The Roots of Obama's Rage," which concluded that the best way to understand Obama was through his Kenyan father.

As the Prospect's Paul Waldman writes of the trailer:

The images go by pretty fast, but my favorite is the black family playing Monopoly, who suddenly jump up from their chairs and start swinging at each other (it comes at the one-minute mark). Who are they supposed to be? The Obamas? Some of Obama's co-conspirators? People sent into a frenzy by his socialist policies?

Race, of course, has always been an issue in American politics, as well as this country's history. Yet these recent events and stories -- especially today's New York Times article -- are reminders that it's not always on the periphery in this presidential contest.