Forget vague rumours about alleged real estate kickbacks.  The real rumour problem Obama is having is the (false) claim that he is a Muslim.  From the Telegraph‘s Toby Harnden’s blog:

Mrs and Mrs Kerns spoke glowingly of Mr Obama’s speeches, his intelligence and his education. They appeared to care not a whit about his colour. But they won’t vote for him. Why? They think he might be a Muslim.

Now this is something I’ve heard all over the country – in Stanhope, Iowa; in Columbia, South Carolina; in Bedford, New Hampshire to name just three places that spring to mind. The Obama campaign realises it’s not going to go away and they’re going to have to deal with it. But once something like this is out there on the internet, it’s not going to be easy to put the genie back in the bottle.

This is what I was talking about last week.  For every pundit and journalist who thinks it is wonderful how Obama will supposedly “bridge” the gaps between America and the rest of the world, you probably have a hundred people who not only don’t see him this way but who are dead-set against him because they perceive him to be too close, or even connected to, the Islamic world.  (This may be the result of deliberate campaigns to portray him as a Muslim, or simply the result of confusion, ignorance or a deduction from his middle name.)  Obama, who is probably the most active candidate on the Democratic side in “outreach” to evangelical Christians, is now in a position where he has to dispel doubts about “his religion” when it isn’t even his religion.  As we already know, this false perception of Obama has been promoted and encouraged by chain e-mails describing Obama as a Muslim, and we have seen in poll after poll the only thing a presidential candidate could be that is more unpopular than a Muslim is an atheist.  It is the political kiss of death for a presidential candidate, and this idea has apparently gained a surprising currency and wide acceptance.

Then there are posts about Obama that might seem to be helpful and positive for him, stressing his importance for America’s standing in the world, that are actually going to reinforce the false preconceptions many people have about Obama:

Barack Obama represents “the only hope for the US in the Muslim world,” according to Pulitzer-prize winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. Because Obama’s father was a Muslim, he “could lead a reconciliation between the Muslim countries and the US.”  

Even if that were true (and I don’t agree with this kind of thinking at all), every time someone reminds voters that Obama has Muslim ancestors he is that much less likely to win.  It shouldn’t matter what his absentee father’s religion was, and it shouldn’t even matter what his stepfather’s religion was, but it seems as if it does matter.