Sweet column: Obama dealing with Muslim rumors while building his “polka dot” corps.

SHARE Sweet column: Obama dealing with Muslim rumors while building his “polka dot” corps.
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Rita Moore-Johnson, whose 77-year-old father is not sure if he will vote for Barack Obama.

DILLON, S.C. — The matter of race, specifically African Americans in South Carolina voting for White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), was not a subtext Wednesday, as it sometimes is.

“My dad is 77 years old, and he is an African American,” Rita Moore-Johnson, 45, a medical lab technician, told Obama at a forum at Winthrop University at Rock Hill. “And I think, based on his history and his ignorance, he is undecided because he feels like maybe a black candidate would not be able to do what you need to do in Washington to get change done. … What can I tell him and people like him, in a small sentence, that would change his mind?”

Obama is trying to rally his African-American base and get white voters in a place where the Confederate flag still flies from the statehouse grounds.

Obama’s campaign produced this pamphlet to address rumors he is a Muslim.

The primary is Saturday, and the Clinton camp sees South Carolina now as a loss.

That doesn’t mean a concession, as the sparks flew between the Obama and Clinton camps after the Clinton campaign started running an ad in the state suggesting Obama embraced GOP ideas. By the end of the day, the Obama team was airing a rebuttal spot saying Bill Clinton was being sent across the state to make “dishonest attacks” on Obama. The air war is taking place against this backdrop of reality: At least half of the voters here are expected to be African-American.

And Obama responded to Moore-Johnson with this — let me call it his “polka-dots” doctrine.

“If I came to you and I had polka dots — but, but you were convinced that I was going to put more money in your pockets, and help you pay for college and help keep America safe, you’d say, ‘OK. You know, I wish you didn’t have polka dots, but I’m still voting for him.’ I’m convinced of that,” Obama said.

He added, “I don’t want to perpetuate this notion in our kids that there is a limit to their dreams. So tell your father that he’s gotta be thinking, making sure he’s not passing on that mind-set to his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren.”

Obama in deeply religious South Carolina has been swatting down rumors he is a Muslim. The Obama campaign is circulating a pamphlet with a picture of Obama in a church with a cross in the background everywhere from churches to beauty salons and barbershops with a black clientele. A headline inside says “Committed Christian.”

In Sumter, Obama said not to get “bamboozled” if “anybody starts getting one of these e-mails saying ‘Obama is a Muslim.’ I’ve been a member of the same church for almost 20 years. Praying to Jesus with my Bible. Don’t let people turn you around because they’re just making stuff up! That’s what they do.”

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