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Dennis Haysbert: I Helped Pave Obama's Way

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RENO, Nev. (AP) _ Dennis Haysbert likes to believe his portrayal as the first African-American U.S. president on Fox's "24" may have helped pave the way for Barack Obama.

"If anything, my portrayal of David Palmer, I think, may have helped open the eyes of the American people," said the actor, who has contributed $2,300 to the Illinois Democrat's presidential campaign.

"And I mean the American people from across the board _ from the poorest to the richest, every color and creed, every religious base _ to prove the possibility there could be an African-American president, a female president, any type of president that puts the people first," he said Tuesday.

Haysbert, who now stars on "The Unit" on CBS, made his comments to reporters during a teleconference call promoting the upcoming American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe.

Haysbert, who also played Nelson Mandela in the 2007 film "Goodbye Bafana," said his role as President Palmer seemed to "confuse people" who would approach him on the street "every day, almost every hour, and ask me to run."

"I still, even after three seasons into `The Unit' playing Sgt. Maj. Jonas Blaine, I'm still asked by people on the street to run," he said.

Haysbert, 54, said he recently stopped for dinner south of Los Angeles with his daughter in Dana Point, Calif., a town he described as "very wealthy, very white and very Republican."

"I go into this little restaurant with that demographic and a lady comes up to me and says, `You know, I want to vote for you,'" he said. "I don't know if it is a joke or that people just like to say those things. But to me, for them to say it out loud means they are thinking about it."