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Commentary: Race shouldn't dominate campaign

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  • Campbell Brown: How much role will race have in the way people vote?
  • Brown says voters may tell pollsters one thing, do another
  • She says extreme partisans on both sides should leave race out of debate
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By Campbell Brown
CNN
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Editor's note: Campbell Brown anchors CNN's "Campbell Brown: Election Center" at 8 p.m. ET Mondays through Fridays. She delivered this commentary during the "Cutting through the Bull" segment of Friday night's broadcast.

Campbell Brown wonders if we can know the role of race before Election Day.

Campbell Brown wonders if we can know the role of race before Election Day.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- We all know this election is about the economy; that's a given. But come November 4, once inside the privacy of the voting booth, how many people will factor in the color of one candidate's skin?

How much is race really a part of this race? Can we even know before Election Day, before the votes are cast and counted?

There are a few things worth considering here. In a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, 37 percent of Americans said that race will be a factor in how they vote. Now, what exactly does that mean? Here is what Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama himself said about race as a factor to "60 minutes":

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Obama: Are there gonna be people who don't vote for me because I'm black? Of course. There are probably African-Americans who are voting for me because I'm black. Or maybe others who are just inspired by the idea of breaking new ground. And so, I think all that's a wash.

Pollsters say it is hard to know if it is all a wash. Some argue that the polling on the issue of race can be unreliable. This is based on the idea that if people really do harbor prejudice, they often don't share those prejudices with the pollsters. They save it for the voting booth.

And of course, there is an overtly ugly side to all of this and we've talked about it -- blatant acts of race-baiting on the campaign trail. Surrogates of Republican candidate Sen. John McCain have introduced Obama by using his middle name, Hussein, something the McCain campaign has denounced.

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We've also seen angry reaction by Obama supporters to words they see as code, words that to them have racial undertones, but to others they just don't. There has been an over-reaction by extreme partisans on both sides. Maybe it's unavoidable. But it should not drive the conversation, or dominate the debate.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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