I can't be the only person who sees the snake in the room. The one that slithers away whenever the political pundits start explaining what the latest presidential poll means.
From the moment Barack Obama went from a wannabe presidential contender to a front-runner, the race factor curled up and waited to strike anyone who got too close.
Former President Bill Clinton got bit. So did the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Still, whenever commentators talk about the close contest between Obama and John McCain, they ignore the snake.
Yet anyone who thought Obama would whip past McCain like an Olympic speed skater was being naive about the state of race relations in this country.
I wouldn't label as racist every white Democrat who switched to McCain after Hillary Clinton was dispatched, but acting as though racial prejudice no longer exists in this country is also wrong.
Obama tries to avoid talking about race, as do his surrogates, staffers and supporters.
But when a cable network interviewed Virginia voters during the Democratic primary, a white woman didn't stutter when she said she couldn't vote for a "Negra."
Does this woman represent a large percentage of the white voting population? Probably not. But there are still enough people like her out here, and they are giving the Obama campaign the flux.
Voting pattern ignored
He could put his birth certificate and his baptismal papers on his Web site, and some will still argue that he is a Muslim.
He could distance himself from every black leader who has ever said anything that might have offended white people, and he will still be perceived by some as running to represent Black America.
And he can swill beer, hit the lanes and ride in a pickup truck, and a percentage of blue-collar workers won't be able to bring themselves to vote for a black man who has surpassed them by every measure.
Indeed, it says a lot that McCain, who dumped his first wife to marry a wealthy heiress, is perceived to possess more of the values that resonate with voters than Obama does, according to some polls.
Using code words and nasty attack ads, the McCain camp might as well have called Obama an "uppity black." Yet, they are the ones complaining that Obama has dragged race into the campaign.
The truth is, despite avoiding the topic as much as possible, Obama hasn't transcended race.
Although he has tailored his message to appeal to white voters, McCain has a 17-point lead with white men and is leading by 10 points with whites overall, according to the Associated Press-Ipsos poll.
Those who argue that Obama's 55 percent lead among blacks and Hispanics and other minorities is proof that blacks are voting for him because he is black are ignoring the fact that blacks always vote heavily Democratic.
If Colin Powell was trying to become the first African-American president, he'd have to switch parties to pull similar numbers among black voters.
Women, minorities and young voters accounted for Obama's 6-point lead over McCain, according to the national poll.
Still, given the mess George Bush is leaving behind, conventional wisdom would lead you to believe that Obama won't have much trouble beating his opponent.
Florida poll especially telling
But in this election, race trumps the economy, an unpopular war and a dull candidate.
A poll taken in Florida found Obama and McCain in a statistical tie, with Obama at 46 percent of the vote and McCain at 44 percent, with a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.
How Floridians summed up the potential first ladies was especially telling.
Voters there said Cindy McCain -- a former drug addict and thief -- better fits their idea of a first lady than Michelle Obama, someone who has not had a hint of scandal attached to her name.
How does that make any sense?
Like her husband, Michelle Obama has spent a great deal of time trying to convince white independent voters that she is not "unpatriotic" and "angry."
But I would not be surprised if a photo spread in an upcoming Harper's Bazaar of Tyra Banks pretending to be Michelle Obama in the White House doesn't result in a fresh round of complaints.
I disagree with those who say Obama ought to "suck up" the racial fear-mongering because it's a battle he can't win.
But you wouldn't want to be in a room with a snake and deny that it is what it is.