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CNBC: Obama Says Race Might Be Factor to 'Overcome'

     Last week, CNBC Washington correspondent John Harwood estimated the crisis on Wall Street would benefit Sen. Barack Obama’s bid for the White House but on September 22, he suggested Obama’s race might outweigh that.

 

     “[T]his is a fascinating real-time 3 a.m. phone call for these candidates in the middle of an economic crisis,” Harwood said of turmoil that has led to taxpayer-funded bailouts of major financial institutions. “And one of the wildcards for Barack Obama is how do swing voters react to the prospect of the first African-American president. It’s not what they’re used to. Now, when I talked to Obama yesterday, he acknowledged that race might be a factor in the election, but said he just has to overcome it.”

 

     Obama told Harwood his appearance and his name might factor in voters’ determination of whether or not he can help people achieve the American dream.

 

     “The question is going to be decided by a guy or a woman who is working hard every day – trying to save enough to send their kid to college, trying to pay the bills,” Obama said. “And the real question they’re going to have is, ‘Can this guy help me in my life? Can this person, regardless of what he looks like and what his name is – can he guide the economy in such a way that I have a better chance of achieving the American dream?’”

 

     In the past, Obama has accused his Republican opponents of trying to drum up fear about his race and name. “So what they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me,” Obama said at a campaign stop July 31. “You know, he’s not patriotic enough, he’s got a funny name, you know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”  

 

     Regardless of whether voters believe his race will affect Obama’s handling of the economy he made it clear he agrees with the media consensus that the economy is on the verge of a depression.

 

     “The era of greed and irresponsibility on Wall Street and in Washington has led us to a perilous moment,” Obama said in his speech from Green Bay, Wisc. “They said they wanted to let the market run free but instead they let it run wild and in doing so, they tramped our core values of fairness and balance and responsibility to one another. And as a result, we are facing a financial crisis as profound as any we have faced since the Great Depression. As a result – your jobs, your savings, your economic security are now at risk.”

 

     The media have given Obama a pass on some of the hyperbolic economic rhetoric during his campaign. Comparisons between current economic conditions and the Great Depression are common in media coverage, as a recent Business & Media Institute report, “The Great Media Depression,” revealed. The media compared current economic conditions to the Great Depression more than 70 times in the first six months of 2008. Coverage of the Bear Stearns collapse was four times more negative than coverage of the stock market crash that led into the depression.