Reidsville, North Carolina

4 days before the election
Population: 14,981
2004 Election: Bush 61%, Kerry 39%
2008 Election: Obama 57%, McCain 41%, Other 2%
(map)

There’s something happening here.

Although we’ve been pretty much outside the news cycle for the last two weeks, one blog post that caught my eye is one from fivethirtyeight.com in which the author relates the story of a racist couple in Western Pennsylvania cheerfully and matter-of-factly telling a canvasser that they are “voting for the n*****.”

Again our sample is smaller, but in the more than 100 interviews we’ve done, three people have mentioned Obama’s skin color or background as a reason not to vote for him. But one of the interesting shifts from the Midwest to the West to the South has been the answer to “what do you think the effect of a (insert the candidate that the voter supports) will be on this area.

In the Midwest and West the responses focused on the economy, but here in the South there have been considerably more mentions of race. There is a palable joy among African-American Obama supporters. Many mention all of his qualifications, his tax plan, his health care plan, but there is a sense of pride, relief and amazement when speaking of Obama unlike any of the supporters of either candidate. To speak very generally, there is a reignition of belief in the American experiment.

The fascinating question will be what will happen to race relations if Obama becomes president? If he succeeds will patriotism continue to trump racism as it did for the white couple in Pennsylvania? If he fails will it make it that much more difficult for blacks and other races to hold on to their share of the American pie?

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