Ignoring white Dems in S.C. isn't smart

Ever since we got into the thick of the presidential race, candidates, reporters, anchors, pundits, columnists and writers have spent a considerable amount of time on the fact that nearly 50 percent of voters in the South Carolina primary are black.

Considering you have a black male candidate &

he's really half-white (mom) and half-Kenyan (dad) but identifies himself as African-American &

and a white woman, who is the wife of a former president beloved by black folks, leading the pack for the Democratic nomination, everyone has been waiting to see how this fight will turn out.

But for the life of me, I don't understand &

and I literally have been screaming this fact on CNN, on my Chicago radio show and on every possible platform I have &

how we can focus on blacks making up nearly 50 percent of the voters and absolutely, positively, unequivocally ignore the other 50 percent!

Being a black man, I don't mind talking about the nuances of black politics &

I've run three black newspapers, a black Web site and been the news editor of a national black magazine &

but I also can count. And to suggest that white voters are immaterial in South Carolina is nuts.

It has been so stunning that I can't even recall the last time I've seen journalists spend a lot of time interviewing whites. The stories have focused on black preachers, the tough choice facing black women, and whether young black voters will come to the polls.

In some respect, there is a blackout when it comes to talking to white voters.

One of the reasons for this seeming disparity is that this is the first state where black voters will play a critical role. And on Feb. 5, we're likely to see a similar focus in Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee, where black voters range from 20 percent to 50 percent of Democratic voters.

But this is a dangerous game to play because it is wrong to ignore half the electorate in a state. We also need to be analyzing the white vote to gain a better understanding as to what may happen in future states.

With that in mind, I reached out to CNN's Bill Schneider, and he shot me an e-mail with the results of the ARG poll taken Jan.

17-18. That poll revealed that among whites, Clinton is attracting 56 percent of the vote in South Carolina; Obama, 20 percent; and Edwards is polling at 16 percent.

For African-Americans, Obama is receiving 73 percent, and Clinton is at 16 percent.

So, what does this tell us? First, while Obama is running a campaign that isn't based on race and is trying to connect with people across the political spectrum, this first Southern state test shows that he isn't even reaching one-third of white voters. Edwards being in the race could be a big reason, but his support conceivably could go to Clinton.

Obama did far better in Nevada &

Clinton received 52 percent to his 34 percent &

but when it comes to winning the South, he is going to have to do more to appeal to these voters if he wants to win enough delegates for the nomination.

Not every state moving forward has such significant black support as South Carolina. Sure, Obama won Iowa. But geography plays a role in how people vote, and the people of Georgia or Nebraska may not see him the same as those in Iowa.

And when we go further inside the numbers, we discover that Clinton has a man problem. She does not poll well among men &

black or white &

which means she is even more reliant on women to get her the nomination, the general election or both.

A lot of voters have told us that they don't care about race or gender &

that the issues trump everything. Sorry, the numbers just don't lie. When large numbers of women, African-Americans, whites or Hispanics fall to one candidate, then there is something about that group that is choosing the candidate. The issues could be the decider, but race or gender also could be at play.

At the end of the day, our job is to delve into every aspect of the campaign and go where the numbers take us. And to give short shrift to white voters who make up half a state party's vote total means that we aren't living up to our responsibility.

In the words of Paul Harvey, it's time for "the rest of the story." Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN contributor and the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith." Please visit his Web site at . For more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the .

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