While on a long motorcycle ride through the passes and bypasses of Southwestern Virginia recently, I noticed an interesting, but disturbing, trend in the sea of political signs that cover the landscape.

In Republican front yards, you find signs touting GOP Senatorial candidate Jim Gilmore, the party’s choice for the House (different names depending on the district) and, of course, the signs promoting John McCain and Sarah Palin in the Presidential race.

In many Democratic yards, however, you see signs promoting Senatorial choice Mark Warner, House choices like Rick Boucher, but no signs for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Oversight? I doubt it. Racism? Yep. I’ve even seen some yards promoting Warner, Boucher and McCain.

McCain will probably carry Southwestern Virginia, even as racist incumbent Senator George Allen did two years ago, although Allen lost when more enlightened members of the electorate cast their votes elsewhere in the state. And voters around here continue to send blatant racists like Virgil Goode back to Washington.

We can talk until the cows come home about how Southwestern Virginia has changed for the better but the sad fact remains that racism still has strong roots in this part of the state. I’ve overheard too many overt racist comments about Obama in the last few months and racism, unfortunately, extends beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

If Obama were white and had a more Anglo Saxon sounding name, McCain and Palin wouldn’t stand a chance.  But he’s half black and that’s a problem when racism remains part of our national heritage.

Writes Charles Babbington of The Associated Press:

Since the nation’s birth, Americans have discussed race and avoided it, organized neighborhoods and political movements around it, and used it to divide and hurt people even as relations have improved dramatically since the days of slavery, Reconstruction and legal segregation.

Now, in what could be a historic year for a black presidential candidate, a new Associated Press-Yahoo! News poll, conducted with Stanford University, shows just how wide a gap remains between whites and blacks.

It shows that a substantial portion of white Americans still harbor negative feelings toward blacks. It shows that blacks and whites disagree tremendously on how much racial prejudice exists, whose fault it is and how much influence blacks have in politics.

One result is that Barack Obama’s path to the presidency is steeper than it would be if he were white.