The presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama is surfing a 'œwave of enthusiasm' that isn't hard to understand, said Michael Fletcher in The Washington Post. Those supporting his push for the Democratic nomination see him as a charismatic alternative to that supposed cold fish Hillary Clinton, and are excited by the thought of electing America's first black president. What is hard to understand is why that enthusiasm isn't shared by blacks. Two recent Washington Post/ABC polls found blacks preferring Clinton 3-to-1 over Obama, and giving her an 80 percent approval rating to Obama's 54 percent. To some extent these surprising polls reflect the black community's enduring affection for Sen. Clinton's husband—whom author Toni Morrison dubbed the 'œfirst black president.' But some in the Obama camp are starting to worry whether a light-skinned, biracial Harvard Law School graduate who grew up in Hawaii can convince black voters that he's one of their own.

Let me be blunt, said Debra Dickerson in Salon.com. 'œObama isn't black,' at least not as that word is used in modern America. For political, cultural, and historical purposes, 'œblack' refers to those millions of Americans descended from West African slaves. 'œBlack' people make white people nervous, and guilty. As the son of a recent African immigrant, Obama doesn't evoke the 300 years of America's ugly racial history. To blacks it is painfully clear that in Obama, whites aren't so much 'œembracing the black man' as 'œreplacing him,' with a safer, less threatening look-alike. It's a Catch-22 for all black candidates, said Peter Beinart in The New Republic. 'œThe more whites love you, the more you must reassure your own community that you are still one of them.' That cruel equation will be particularly hard on Obama, because he never was.

Gary Kamiya

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Clarence Page

Chicago Tribune

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