The governor, who has seen sales of her autobiography soar since the incident, scoffs at the notion that she was disrespectful, much less racist. She said in a statement to POLITICO that her differences with Obama are “strictly rooted in policy and political philosophy” and that “racism … should have zero bearing on the 2012 presidential campaign.”

But when Brewer offered several different versions of the incident on Fox and elsewhere, first accusing Obama of being “thin-skinned,” then telling reporters she “felt a little threatened, if you will, in the attitude that he had,” the reaction in the African-American community was visceral.

Hilary Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy and policy at the NAACP, was dumbstruck.

“What were you afraid he would do, steal your purse?” Shelton asked POLITICO…

“There is a camp within the [Democratic National Committee] and a camp within the party that wants to make the argument” that Obama’s critics are motivated by racism, said former Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.), a past Obama supporter who parted ways with the president over health care reform. “I think it’s a huge mistake. I think it’s a tactic that’s likely to backfire, and I think it’s something that accusing people of racism ultimately damages Obama’s interest” more than it helps the president…

One former top GOP party official found particular fault with Gingrich’s food stamp line, arguing that it did more to galvanize Obama’s black support than to rally anti-Obama conservatives.

“So stupid,” the operative said.