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DEMOCRATIC presidential candidate Barack Obama isn’t making the same tactical mistake in California made by most presidential candidates – treating the state like an unwanted stepchild. The Illinois senator has been in the presidential hunt barely a week, yet he’s already coming to Los Angeles today for a rally in the West Adams district. This isn’t Obama’s first visit to our city. Since joining the Senate in 2005, he’s flitted in and out and barnstormed the state on book-signing as well as fundraising tours. Last year, he campaigned here on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides. By reaching out to California, Obama has defied the political logic that says candidates shouldn’t waste time, money and energy hustling votes here on a lost (Republican) or already-won (Democratic) presidential cause. According to this line of thinking, California is good for one thing and one thing only: collecting barrels of cash for politicians to wage their fights in the battleground states. Obama will surely come looking for cash, too – his trip today includes a Beverly Hills fundraiser hosted by DreamWorks SKG partners Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. But unlike most recent candidates, he also seems interested in actually trying to woo the state’s voters. That’s especially true in the 2008 Democratic primary, where African-Americans will have plenty of other candidates to choose from. Among black voters, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are just as admired as Obama – in some polls, they even attract a higher portion of the black vote. Clinton will also likely outdo Obama in the crucial contest of getting Hollywood celebs and wealthy liberals to shell out millions for her campaign. Meanwhile, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is also seeking the Democratic presidential nod, is Latino. If he can find legs for his campaign, he could do so well with Latino voters in Los Angeles and throughout the state as to more than offset any advantage Obama has among blacks. And among whites, Clinton, Edwards, and perhaps even Richardson don’t have to deal with the X factor of race. That factor will be sorely tested during the presidential campaign as Obama seeks to be the first black president – and it’s not clear yet how white Americans will respond. Which is to say winning California won’t be easy for Obama, but it’s crucial to his chances of taking the Oval Office. As California goes, so goes Obama. Meanwhile, we should applaud the senator for having the foresight and the courage to engage our state. It shows the man understands that politicians can do more in California than simply troll for bucks in Hollywood. Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a political analyst and social issues commentator, as well as the author of “The Emerging Black GOP Majority.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! It only makes sense. With the state poised to move the 2008 primary up to February, California will likely exert unprecedented influence this time in choosing the parties’ presidential nominees. For Obama, the black vote in L.A. may be the difference-maker in taking the state and, in turn, the Democratic nomination. Indeed, his stops in South L.A. are a clear sign that he’s counting on it. But polls have shown that many blacks are skeptical about Obama. In informal surveys in black newspapers in Los Angeles, most African-Americans express joy that he’s running, but deep down they are wary – for reasons that have little to do with doubts about his competence, political savvy, or even his paper-thin Senate track record. Instead, these doubts are rooted in electability. Can Obama win? When Obama’s record and views are separated from the myth-making and rock-star image, the problem of his electability looms large. He’s an unabashed liberal, having received approval ratings of 100 from the NAACP, the National Organization for Women, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees – as well favorable reviews from the ACLU. These are the sort of rankings that could put Obama too far outside the mainstream to win a national election. And that means they could sink him in California, too, if enough African-American voters become convinced that the odds against his winning the general election are just to great for them to risk a vote on him in the primary.