If anyone has reason to feel maligned by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's comment that presidential candidate Barack Obama was electable because he was "light-skinned" and didn't speak with a "Negro dialect," it's white voters.

Reid was apparently worried that too many whites wouldn't vote for a black man whose skin was darker than Obama's, or who sounded demonstrably black, no matter how qualified. It was a slap at white voters he assumed to be racist, not a shot at Obama or other blacks.

The comment was made in a private conversation during the 2008 campaign and reported in a new book. Was it insensitive? Sure. Was it a political analysis that should have been voiced more diplomatically? Absolutely. It's a good bet that no one is more aware of that today than Reid.

But his concern couldn't have been about how blacks would vote. Democrats have gotten about 80 percent of the black vote in presidential elections since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Indeed, Obama won 96 percent of the black vote, while pulling only 43 percent of the white vote.

Unfortunately, people often do vote based on irrelevant characteristics like how tall, or slim or good-looking a candidate may be. Still, Reid's nakedly racial calculation may have provided a glimpse into his soul. He offered the politically necessary mea culpa to Obama on Saturday. Apology offered and accepted. But what likely mattered to voters isn't just the shade of Obama's skin, but how comfortable he is in it. hN