Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) (Steve Helber/AP)

State Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), a campaign surrogate for President Obama in Virginia, said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is appealing to racists who do not want a black man in the White House.

Asked on a Hampton Roads radio show why the former Massachusetts governor had been able to pull even with President Obama in a recent poll, Lucas said the problem was race.

“Mitt Romney, he’s speaking to ... a segment of the population who does not like to see people other than a white man in the White House or in any other elective position,” Lucas said Tuesday. “Let’s be real clear about it — Mitt Romney is speaking to a group of people out there who don’t like folks like President Barack Obama in any elective or leadership position. We know what’s going on here. And some people may be afraid to say it, but I’m not. ... He’s speaking to that fringe out there who do not want to see anybody but a white person in a leadership position.”

Lucas is a member of Obama’s “Truth Team,” speaking on the president’s behalf on various campaign issues in Virginia. Obama’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) objected to Lucas’s statement.

“The Governor found the comments to be divisive and flat wrong,” McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said via e-mail. “They are out of place and out of touch. This election is about who can best get Americans back to work, spending under control and our nation back on track.”

Lucas made the comments while appearing on the John Fredericks Show on 1650-AM. Fredericks led into the segment by asking why Romney had caught up to Obama in the Quinnipiac University poll, despite the president’s recent two-day tour of the state.

Lucas initially blamed the poll numbers on voters’ paying more attention to summer vacations than the campaign. But after sharing an anecdote about some constituents whisking their grandchildren off to Disney World, Lucas quickly shifted gears to racism.

“Do you really believe now that this is still about race?” Fredericks asked.

“I absolutely believe it’s all about race, and for the first time in my life I’ve been able to convince my children, finally, that racism is alive and well,” she replied.

“Even in Virginia?” Fredericks asked.

Lucas: “In Virginia? How about all across this nation — and especially in Virginia.”

A liberal firebrand, Lucas has never been one to hold her tongue. She stormed out of a committee meeting one day during this year’s General Assembly session, tossing papers as she left. On Tuesday, she anticipated that her words would not sit well with some.

“I know there are people who are probably cringing in their seats because they don’t want to hear it,” she said on the show. “But it’s time that we face the reality that we need to have a national discussion on racial issues.”

More about the 2012 campaign:

View Photo Gallery: Mitt Romney on the campaign trail.

Romney slams Obama on leaks, defense cuts

Romney shreds Obama on foreign policy

Trail Mix: Obama, Romney woo the military vote