It was shocking and I saw the other reporters sitting next to me smile. Not because people were enthusiastically chanting. Every few minutes a new one would start (“We want change!” was particularly popular). But this was a direct rebuke at the attempt to lean on race as an explanation of where this race would go. We all know that this is Obama’s message. He made this very clear in his speech last night, that he sees himself as a post-racial candidate. But it was another thing to see this taken up by ordinary people who seemed in that moment to be blaming the media for not listening to their desire to move beyond skin color.
A few minutes later the same chant was taken up again, this time in response to another conversation between Blitzer and King comparing Obama’s slice of the electorate to Jesse Jackson’s in 1984 and 1988. They pointed out that Obama had managed to grab a much higher percentage of the white vote. “Race doesn’t matter! Race doesn’t matter!” they yelled up at the two anchors.
It was a fascinating moment for me because it showed how aware people are of the media’s role in defining candidates and setting storylines. And here were a few hundred people making it clear they didn’t want CNN telling them what had happened in South Carolina. And, as it turns out, they were right. For the most part, at least when it came to Obama, race didn’t matter.