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Oct 27, 2008 at 09:52am IST

Racial overtones mar election campaigns in US

Washington: The race for the White House is historic mainly because of the presence of an African-American Democrat nominee Barack Obama for the post of President.

Obamas nomination has brought with it focus on the racial divisions in America.

Indian-American Democrat Ashwin Madia, a former Marine and Iraq War veteran, is running for a seat in the US Congress from a Republican stronghold in Minnesota against Erik Paulsen.

If elected, he would be just the third Indian-American ever elected to Congress.

Latest polls show him leading his Republican opponent. Now, videos have surfaced of local Republicans attacking him for not belonging to the mainstream.

"From a demographic standpoint, Eric Paulsen fits this district very well," Ron Carey, Minnesota Republican Party Chairman, is seen telling in in a video on Youtube.

However, Madia's campaign is hopeful these smears won't stick.

"People don't care what race I am and what ethnicity I am. What they want is a new direction for our country," says Madia.

Madia is not the first Indian-American to face the issue of race during a heated election. In 2006, the incumbent Virginia Senator George Allen used a racial slur to refer to an Indian-American volunteer working for his opponent.

"So welcome, let's give a welcome to macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia," George Allen, former Virginia Senator, says.

The volunteer who was targetted was SR Sidharth, born and raised in Virginia, who still finds it difficult to discuss that racially-charged episode, even though Allen lost that election.

"It was a little bit tense. I'm over that, trying to move beyond that," Sidharth, Obama campaign volunteer, says.

The attacks are never directly racial but are subtly framed to portray candidates like Madia as an outsider, the same tactic being used against Barack Obama.