The "Bubba vote" and underlying racism will hurt Democrat Barack Obama in key battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, former House majority leader Dick Armey said Wednesday.
"The Bubba vote is there, and it's very real, and it is everywhere," Armey told USA TODAY and Gannett News Service. "There's an awful lot of people in America, bless their heart, who simply are not emotionally prepared to vote for a black man.
"It's deplorable, but it is real," said Armey, adding that he believes "Republicans would not encourage" such prejudices. He said the "Bubba vote" is "invisible" in pre-election opinion polls, because voters do not admit they would oppose a candidate because of race.
The "Bubba vote" is shorthand in politics for white, working-class voters who often live in rural areas — a group Obama did not dominate in state primaries.
Armey said Obama's "funny name" — a phrase the Illinois senator uses himself — could "give people concerns that he could be or has been too much influenced by Muslims, which is a great threat now." Obama is Christian.
"These are handicaps he has that translate into real-number outcomes," said Armey, an architect of the "Republican revolution" that won the House majority in the 1994 election. The Texas congressman retired in 2003.
"We just disagree" that race will be a factor in the election, said Obama campaign spokesman Nick Shapiro. Voters' "top concerns are a lot more about which candidate is going to help their families and strengthen our economy than some politician's prognostication for the election."
Republican John McCain's campaign declined comment.
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, objected to Armey's reference to Muslim influence as a "threat."
"If he really believes that Muslims are a threat, then he must be out of step with American values of inclusion, respect and plurality," Awad said. (MORE)