Louisiana Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Carter Peterson says opposition to President Obama's health care overhaul boils down to one thing: racism.

"It's not about how many federal dollars we can receive. It's not about that. You ready? It's about race," Peterson said in a floor speech in the Louisiana state Senate. "I know nobody wants to talk about that. It's about the race of this African-American president."

Peterson notes that Republicans have also proposed an individual health care mandate in the past, including former House speaker Newt Gingrich.

"It comes down to the race of the president of the United States which causes people to disconnect and step away from the substance of the bill," said Peterson, who is also a state senator and former congressional candidate.

Peterson said members of the state legislature have told her they cannot support the bill or its Medicaid expansion -- which has been a contentious issue in Louisiana after Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) decision to opt out of it -- because it is tied to the president.

A CNN poll this week found that 54 percent of Americans oppose Obamacare, while 43 percent support.

Update 1:17 p.m.: Republicans are already seeking to use Peterson's comments against other Louisiana Democrats, including Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who is a top GOP target in 2014.

"The suggestion that more than half of the people in Louisiana are racist because of their concerns is absurd, but it raises serious questions about where Mary Landrieu stands," said Brook Hougesen, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Landrieu cast the deciding vote to make Obamacare law, and she owes it to voters to weigh in on the offensive comments made by the head of her Democratic party."

Update 10:01 a.m. Thursday: Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has called for Peterson to apologize, but Peterson isn't commenting.

A local news station tried to get her to comment, but she ran away from cameras and reportedly threw a written request for comment in the trash.