New York Governor David Paterson is so unpopular that the White House reportedly is trying to muscle him out of running for reelection--his name would be a drag on all New York Democrats. That made for an awkward encounter when Paterson and President Obama crossed paths at an Albany event this morning. Paterson is also New York's first black governor, so the issue of race invariably reared its head. Oddly, given Republicans' epic inability to win minority support, it was RNC chairman Michael Steele who injected race into the debate, saying he found it "stunning that the White House would send word to one of only two black governors in the country not to run for re-election." Many pundits also detected race behind Obama's snub--though not all of them.

  • No White President Would Have Told Paterson to Quit, said the conservative Sister Toldjah blog. "Obama is doing this because he knows he can get away with it. No white President, not Democrat and certainly not a Republican, would have done this considering Paterson’s penchant for playing the race card."
  • Is Deval Patrick Deval Next? Jules Crittenden asked. "Hey Obama, as long as you’re meddling in state politics to undermine black governors, you might want to consider throwing Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick under the same bus. He’s way down in the polls, too!" 
  • The Dumbest Thing Steele Has Ever Said, Steve Benen wrote at The Washington Monthly. And that's "no small feat." Benen says, "it's hardly a surprise that the White House hopes that Paterson decides not to run next year. What is a surprise is that Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele apparently wants voters to think President Obama doesn't like black people." Benen called the hypocrisy incredible. "For Steele, who spends a fair amount of time complaining about others playing the 'race card,' to suggest on national television that President Obama is somehow racist against an African-American governor might be one of the all-time dumbest things the RNC chairman has ever said."
  • The First Black President Faces Off With the First Black Governor, the New York Post observed, claiming that Obama's intervention "sets up a dynamic where the nation's first black president, who generally steers clear of race discussions, is calling on the state's first black governor to step aside."
  • Now Who's Playing the Race Card? asked the First Read team. They said Steele's statement was "stunning," since the RNC chair accused President Jimmy Carter of playing the race card just last week.