By Dave Boyer – The Washington Times
Democrats’ fears are coming true about Hillary Clinton’s limited appeal among blacks, as numbers from early-voting states show the bloc isn’t as fired up for the Democratic nominee as it was for President Obama.
In key battleground states such as Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, early voting patterns show that blacks aren’t casting ballots in the same numbers they did four years ago, when they helped propel Mr. Obama to re-election.
The president is working furiously in the last week of the campaign to spur blacks and young people to vote. At a rally for Mrs. Clinton in North Carolina on Wednesday, he criticized state officials as trying to suppress the black vote and accused Republican nominee Donald Trump of trying to intimidate blacks from voting.
“Donald Trump is calling on his supporters to monitor ‘certain areas,’” Mr. Obama said at the University of North Carolina. “Where are those ‘certain areas’ he’s talking about?”
The problem for Mrs. Clinton is critical in Florida, the biggest battleground prize, where blacks have accounted for 11.58 percent of all early voters this year. University of Florida political scientist Dan Smith reported on his ElectionSmith blog that in 2012, blacks made up 15.83 percent of early voters in Florida.
In North Carolina, black turnout is down 16 percent from four years ago. Michael Bitzer, a professor of politics and history at Catawba College, in Salisbury, North Carolina, said registered Democrats are 4.2 percent behind their same-day total numbers from 2012, while registered Republicans are 4.5 percent ahead of their pace four years ago.
He noted a “steady continuation” of a trend in absentee ballots that bodes ill for Mrs. Clinton in North Carolina: “white voters overperforming their 2012 numbers and black voters underperforming their 2012 numbers.”
Mr. Bitzer said in an interview that the big deficit among black voters has been “slowly chipped away” in the past two days, but it’s still behind the pace of four years ago.
“It is an important part of the Democratic coalition that Secretary Clinton needs,” he said. “I think visits like the president’s to North Carolina send a signal that there’s still work that needs to be done.”
Mr. Obama made his third trip of the campaign Wednesday to North Carolina, a state he won in 2008 but lost in 2012. He called Mr. Trump “somebody who vilifies minorities, vilifies immigrants, vilifies people of the Muslim faith.”
“If you accept the support of Klan sympathizers … then you’ll tolerate that support when you’re in office,” Mr. Obama said, referring to the endorsement of Mr. Trump this week by The Crusader, a publication with KKK ties.
The Trump campaign called The Crusader “repulsive” and said its views “do not represent” Trump supporters.
The president also blasted state officials for having enacted a law that required strict voter ID and cut back on early voting. It was overturned by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July, with a judge calling the Republican-supported measure “one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history.”
“They don’t want you to vote,” Mr. Obama said. Mr. Trump “has been getting help from Republican politicians in this state who have been trying to keep you from voting. What’s been going on here in this state has been really troubling. It was one of the worst voter suppression laws in the country, here in North Carolina. Not back in the 1960s — now.”
In an interview earlier in the day with radio host Tom Joyner, Mr. Obama acknowledged that black turnout in early voting states is lagging.
“I’m going to be honest with you right now, because we track, we’ve got early voting, we’ve got all kinds of metrics to see what’s going on, and right now, the Latino vote is up. Overall vote is up,” Mr. Obama said. “But the African-American vote right now is not as solid as it needs to be.”
The radio show has a largely black audience.
North Carolina is a must-win state for Mr. Trump, and early voting among white voters is up about 15 percent from four years ago. The president said black voters must turn out at the polls for Mrs. Clinton the same way they did for him.
“I know that a lot of people in the barber shops and the beauty salons and, you know, in the neighborhoods who are saying to themselves, ‘Well, you know, we love Barack. We especially love Michelle. And so it was exciting and now we’re not excited as much,’” the president told Mr. Joyner.
“You know what? I need everybody to understand that everything we’ve done is dependent on me being able to pass the baton to somebody who believes in the same things that I believe in. So if you really care about my presidency and what we’ve accomplished, then you are going to go and vote,” he said.
A President Trump, he said, would “reverse everything I’ve done over the last eight years.”
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, which tracks black political participation, released a survey Monday showing that an “overwhelming majority” of black voters consider the presidential race “a high-stakes election.”
The report said 75 percent of blacks in Western states consider the election “very important,” compared with 90 percent of blacks in the Midwest, 89 percent in the Northeast and 83 percent in the South. The study didn’t compare those percentages with voter attitudes in the 2012 election.
Black voters gave Mr. Obama 95 percent support in 2008 and 93 percent in 2012. Given those high levels, Mrs. Clinton’s team has been concerned from the start about how to attain a similar level of support to preserve Mr. Obama’s winning coalition of minorities, women and young voters.
Leaked emails from the personal account of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, show that well-connected Democrats have been voicing concern for months about her campaign’s lack of effective outreach to black voters.
Frank White Jr., who raised $2.3 million for Mr. Obama’s reelection four years ago, wrote to Mr. Podesta earlier this year with a warning about black voters.
“I’m hearing the same complaint in political circles that I continue to hear while fundraising. ‘The campaign doesn’t value black folks and takes us for granted,’” Mr. White wrote. “Can I make a suggestion? A black campaign vice chair or senior adviser would go a long way during the primary and send the message that Hillary puts her actions where her mouth is, and actually does appreciate the black vote.”
Mr. Podesta replied, “Right now I think we should do this right after Super Tuesday.”
In February, Clinton campaign official Sara Latham advised Mr. Podesta to reach out to various black leaders, saying “there are five calls that would be extremely helpful.”
The list included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, whom she said “has declined all of our overtures to publicly endorse” but whose approval ratings in South Carolina, a key primary state, are “through the roof.”
She also asked Mr. Podesta to call former NAACP CEO Ben Jealous (“rumored to publicly support Bernie”), a reference to Mrs. Clinton’s primary rival, Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont.
The campaign also wanted Mr. Podesta to win over Democratic National Committee Black Caucus Chairwoman Virgie Rollins, who was said to be “supportive but wants a higher level touch.”
The fourth black leader on Mr. Podesta’s list was former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume. “He is with us,” but it is worth “a call,” Ms. Latham wrote.
Finally, there was the Rev. Al Sharpton. “We all know about the Rev,” Ms. Latham wrote. “Doubtful he publicly endorses, but I think it’s worth circling back before the meeting and making a direct ask.”