In 2008, black voters came out to vote for Obama in record numbers, closing the historical racial gap in voter participation. But discontent with Obama in the black community – which has been bubbling below the surface for awhile – is starting to reach a boiling point.
While yesterday’s Gallup poll showed Obama still receives 83 percent approval ratings among blacks, there’s concern disillusionment or apathy could keep black voters home in November 2012, according to Politico:
“You can spend a lot of time trying to win over white independents, but if you don’t pay attention to your base, African Americans, if you have not locked up your base yet, you’ve got a serious problem,” said CNN contributor Roland Martin.
“African-Americans will vote for him again, 88, 92, 95 percent. The question is what’s the turnout? I’ll vote for you. But will I bring ten other people along, like I did in 2008? That’s the danger here for him. He doesn’t have the historical factor to lean on as much in 2012 as he did in 2008… And the first step, is that he has to be willing to speak to this audience, black people.”
In response, Obama has been quietly ramping up his outreach to the black community, a sign his team is worried about the impact of a decrease in black voter turnout:
Obama’s staff, including campaign manager Jim Messina and White House senior adviser David Plouffe, have privately predicted black turnout in 2012 will be comparable, or in some places even exceed, the rates in 2008. But they are also clearly concerned about drift. Hoping to head off the dispute before it becomes a larger 2012 headache, Obama and his team are ramping up outreach efforts. On Monday, Democratic National Committee executive director Patrick Gaspard and Obama 2012 official Paul Blake convened a meeting and conference call that included Roland Martin, veteran operative Donna Brazile, BET’s Debra Lee, Urban League President Marc Morial and the NAACP’s Ben Jealous. And the president will address the mid-September Congressional Black Caucus Foundation conference.
Obama can’t survive alienating a significant segment of his base, especially since many of the groups that supported him in 2008 now seem to be souring on him. Only 44 percent of Hispanic voters approve of his performance, according to Gallup, but Obama received 67 percent of the Latino vote in the last election. “His approval rating among several groups that previously gave him strong majority support — postgraduates, Hispanics, 18- to 29-year-olds, and lower-income Americans — is now below the 50 percent threshold,” reported Gallup. With those numbers, Obama can’t afford to ignore signs of dissatisfaction from his main base of support.