"24" First To Break Political Mold

"Extreme Rendition" -- Jonas (Dennis Haysbert)
Actor Dennis Haysbert likes to believe his portrayal of David Palmer on Fox's hit show "24" as the first African-American U.S. president may have helped pave the way for Barack Obama's bid for the White House.

"If anything, my portrayal of David Palmer I think may have helped open the eyes of the American people," said Haysbert, 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.

"I think Barack does that and will continue to do that. I would just love to see him get into the White House and show what he can do. ... I think his experience is about the same as Lincoln when he was in office."

Haysbert, who now stars on "The Unit" on CBS-TV, made his comments to reporters during a teleconference call promoting the 18th annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe, where he intends to make his debut at the tourney July 11-13.

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 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."

By Scott Sonner