Over the past of the past eight years, in the view of analysts from both parties, the country has shifted markedly on the issue of gender, to the point where they say voters could very well be open to electing a woman in 2008. That is reflected, they say, in polling data and in the continued success of women running for office, in red and blue states alike. “The country is ready,” said Senator Elizabeth Dole, the North Carolina Republican, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2000. “I’m not saying it’s going to happen in ’08. But the country is ready.”
By contrast, for all the excitement stirred by Mr. Obama, it is much less certain that an African-American could win a presidential election. Not as many blacks have been elected to prominent positions as women. Some high-profile black candidates — Harold Ford Jr., a Democrat running for the Senate in Tennessee, and Michael Steele, a Republican Senate candidate in Maryland — lost in November. And demographics might be an obstacle as well: black Americans are concentrated in about 25 states — typically blue ones, like New York and California. While black candidates cannot assume automatic support from black voters, they would at least provide a base. In states without big black populations, the candidate’s crossover appeal must be huge.
“All evidence is that a white female has an advantage over a black male — for reasons of our cultural heritage,” said the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, the civil rights leader who ran for president in 1984 and 1988. Still, he said, for African-American and female candidates, “It’s easier — emphatically so.”
Ms. Ferraro offered a similar sentiment. “I think it’s more realistic for a woman than it is for an African-American,” said Ms. Ferraro. “There is a certain amount of racism that exists in the United States — whether it’s conscious or not it’s true.”
Mr. Obama said that many black voters he spoke with have serious questions about whether America is ready to elect an African-American president.
“I think there is a protectiveness and a skepticism within the African-American community that is grounded in their experiences,” Mr. Obama said in an interview. “But the skepticism doesn’t mean there’s a lack of support.”
David A. Bositis, senior political analyst with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a nonpartisan Washington group that studies black issues, said that it would certainly be hard, but not impossible for an African-American candidate to win.
“I certainly felt in the ’90s that if Colin Powell had been nominated on a major party ticket, he would have had a very good chance to win,” Mr. Bositis said. “If it’s the right black candidate, I do think there is propensity to elect a black. But it has to be the right black candidate.”
Sunday, December 10, 2006
"...is the nation more likely to vote for a woman or an African-American for president?"