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Joe Wilson Election: Chances Damaged By Outburst

BEN EVANS and MEG KINNARD | 09/20/09 10:14 AM | AP

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Rep. Joe Wilson may have shouted his way into the toughest election fight of his life.

Just ask former Sen. George Allen of Virginia, a conservative darling who suffered a surprise defeat in 2006 after calling an Indian-American campaign worker “macaca” – an ethnic slur in some countries. Or Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, who was tossed out of office the same year after striking a police officer who tried to make her show identification before entering the Capitol complex.

Voters often frown on rude conduct, and Democrats would like nothing more to have Wilson’s scalp in 2010 – not just to win another seat, but to hold up the victory as evidence that even the conservative South rejects the town-hall style vitriol that President Barack Obama is facing.

Of course, a decisive Wilson victory could also show the opposite: that voters in this South Carolina district are angry over Obama’s policies and support Wilson’s message, if not his style.

What’s clear is that the race will be one of the most closely watched of the midterm cycle, with money now gushing in from all over the country. The normally low-key Wilson will be in the spotlight like never before.

“It’s actually boosted Joe’s popularity among folks who agree with him,” said Danielle Vinson, a political scientist at Furman University. But Vinson said it could cause problems for Wilson with voters who are transplants to South Carolina.

“This particularly will stick in their minds because they’re still talking to friends and family who live elsewhere, and for them, this has been an embarrassment,” she said.

About a quarter of Wilson’s constituents are African-Americans, a voting bloc that has overwhelmingly supported Obama and is not likely to approve of his insult.

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Elephant in the room: Race also present in rebuke of Wilson

By William Douglas | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — In their effort to admonish Rep. Joe Wilson, both white and black lawmakers in the House of Representatives voiced deep concern over a string of what they think are racially motivated attacks on the nation’s first black president.

“There’s no question that if you look at some of the actions and comments being made, there’s a fringe element that has staked out a racial position towards African-Americans that never has been open for public display” until now, said Rep. Henry Johnson, D-Ga., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Wilson “didn’t help the cause of diversity and balance with his remarks.”

The 240 to 179 vote Tuesday, largely along party lines, formally reprimanded Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, for shouting “You lie!” to President Barack Obama during his address last week to a joint session of Congress.

Wilson and the House GOP leadership protested, saying the measure was a diversionary tactic designed to deflect attention from the health care debate.

“It’s clear to the American people that there are far more important issues facing the nation,” Wilson said in his defense.

However, some Black Caucus members said that Wilson’s outburst is but the latest in a long string of ugly events rooted in racism, such as last week’s flap over Obama addressing the nation’s schoolchildren, protesters showing up outside Obama events carrying licensed firearms, and “birthers” questioning Obama’s citizenship. Black Caucus members say such incidents are designed to disrespect the office of the president now that a black man holds it.

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