The gist of the article goes like this: When a sitting president's job approval rating is below 50%, a candidate from their party is not likely to win. In several swing states with a high white population, Barack Obama's approval rating is lower than would otherwise be expected.
The case they are trying to make gets rather convoluted and eventually left this reader with the thought that some political scientists just have too much time on their hands. But other than that, I was amazed at how far the authors were willing to go to avoid saying the obvious: Among white voters, Barack Obama's approval rating is affected by racism.
When you combine the lower support among whites for Obama nationally with what we know about race and political affiliation in America today, it makes sense that the whiter a state is, the lower the president’s current job approval.The really fascinating part is that, rather than give this article a title like: Clinton's Real Opponent: Racism Against Barack Obama, the folks at Politico came up with one that suggests that the President is the problem (i.e., Clinton's "opponent").
Personally, I find the whole topic of "political correctness" to be a distraction. But perhaps these days we might suggest that publications like Politico think it means that we should avoid naming racism and instead, blame the results on black/brown folks.