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But some black civic and religious leaders have accused Mr. Obama of not speaking to issues important to the black community.

“He’s consistent with a lot of blacks but is not as supportive as many of the black leadership groups would be of something like affirmative action,” Mr. Morris said.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson last summer accused Mr. Obama of “talking down to black people,” among other critical comments. Mr. Jackson later apologized.

Mr. Obama’s longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., became the center of a furor earlier this year when videos surfaced of his calling on God to smite the U.S. and claiming that the government invented AIDS as a weapon to use against racial minorities.

Mr. Obama quickly denounced Mr. Wright’s comments and distanced himself from the retired pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. When the public furor failed to subside, Mr. Obama in March delivered a speech in Philadelphia rejecting Mr. Wright’s racially charged comments while trying to explain the root of the pastor’s remarks.

The speech helped quiet the Wright fuss, but it flared up again weeks later when Mr. Wright made a series of public appearances, including a television interview with Bill Moyers and speech at the National Press Club. Mr. Obama then spoke out more forcefully against Mr. Wright and resigned his membership at Trinity in May.

Mr. McCain also has stirred racial controversy on both sides of the black-white spectrum.

While a House member in 1983, he rejected the creation of a federal holiday for Martin Luther King - a stance for which he has since apologized.

Some white conservatives criticized Mr. McCain when, after campaigning in South Carolina during the 2000 presidential race, the senator suggested that the Confederate flag be removed from the state Capitol. Mr. McCain, who initially stayed out of the flag debate, later called his silence on the issue “probably the worst piece of advice I’ve ever given to myself.”