Obama’s chief strategist: “Dollar bill” remark was about race (MORE: OBAMA GOES OFF MESSAGE, CONTRADICTS AXELROD)

After a day of denials, finally the truth comes out:

Sen. Barack Obama’s chief strategist conceded that the Democratic presidential candidate was referring to his race when he said Republicans were trying to scare voters by suggesting Obama “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”

The comment had triggered a charge Thursday from Sen. John McCain’s campaign manager that Obama had “played the race card… from the bottom of the deck.” 

Playing the Race Card

Obama’s camp initially denied the remark was a reference to Obama’s race.

Obama is poised to become the first black man to be the presidential nominee of a major political party when he claims the Democratic nomination on Aug. 28 — the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“He was referring to the fact that he didn’t come into the race with the history of others,” Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday. “It is not about race.”

But Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, acknowledged on “Good Morning America” Friday that the candidate was referring, at least in part, to his ethnic background.

When pressed to explain the comment, Axelrod told “GMA” it meant, “He’s not from central casting when it comes to candidates for president of the United States. He’s new to Washington. Yes, he’s African-American.”

That seemingly obvious reference sparked the first real fireworks between the two camps as backers of both candidates accused the other of trying to subtly inject race into the presidential contest.

Now that it’s been acknowledged that the remark was about race, do you think we’ll hear an apology from Obama himself? Don’t hold your breath.

Update – 8:52 PM: Denial is a river:

(ORLANDO, FLA.)- “This notion that somehow I was playing the race card is ridiculous,” Barack Obama told NPR today, responding to questions about his assertion this week that the McCain campaign is promoting suspicion by saying Obama “doesn’t look like all the presidents on the dollar bills.”


“What I said in front of a 98 percent conservative, rural, white audience in Missouri is nothing that I haven’t said before, which is, I don’t come out of central casting when it comes to what presidential candidates typically look like,” Obama told NPR this afternoon.

Let’s take a look at what he’s “said before“:

“It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy,” Obama told a fundraiser in Jacksonville, Florida. “We know what kind of campaign they’re going to run. They’re going to try to make you afraid.

“They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?”

Same argument, this time with names, and a change up from “did I mention he’s black” to “he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”  It’s my understanding that he said the “dollar bills” remark at more than one campaign stop.


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