Thursday, October 23, 2008

Undecided as Code

Somewhere in the higher-than-usual percentage of undecided voters in the late stages of an almost two-year campaign are those who can't or won't vote for an African-American candidate.

The good news for Barack Obama is that, as his lead in the national polls grows toward double digits, it may, as gamblers say, "cover the spread."

Michelle Obama recently dismissed the Bradley Effect by pointing to the primary vote that gave her husband the nomination, but that overlooks the late surge by Hillary Clinton among white voters in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, where Rep. John Murtha, in his usual blunt way, recently pointed out that race matters.

A critical question about such voters may be, How deep does their "indecision" go? Is it virulent enough to make them choose McCain or just skip voting entirely? Since many of them are among those most worried about the sinking economy, the answer may be a test of self-interest against deeply held prejudice.

In any case, on Election Night, we will learn something about how far America has come on the subject of race since the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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