Democrats mi­cro­tar­get blacks in South

Ef­fort to keep Se­nate seats

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

Black vot­ers across the South in­creas­ingly rec­og­nize that they have the elec­toral mus­cle to swing statewide races, but that doesn’t guar­an­tee they will show up at the polls this year to save white Democrats strug­gling to hold on to their Se­nate seats.

Democrats and their al­lies are painfully aware that they can’t win with­out sig­nif­i­cant turnout among black vot­ers in states such as Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina, which are cru­cial bat­tle­grounds in the party’s fight to keep ma­jor­ity con­trol of the U.S. Se­nate.

They have en­gaged in a mas­sive cam­paign to re­cap­ture some of the Barack Obama en­chant­ment that lured droves of South­ern blacks to the polls and even flipped North Carolina from red to blue in 2008.

In Louisiana, where more than 30 per­cent of the elec­torate is black, the state NAACP has launched the most ag­gres­sive and so­phis­ti­cated voter drive in the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s his­tory. The ef­fort in­cludes mi­cro­tar­get­ing, us­ing the same Voter Ac­ti­va­tion Net­work data­base as Pres­i­dent Obama’s 2012 re-elec­tion cam­paign.

“This is more than we usu­ally do. This is a true con­certed ef­fort,” said Louisiana NAACP State Pres­i­dent Earnest John­son. “We think this year’s Se­nate elec­tion will be an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity to demon­strate whether or not our strat­egy will work.”

The goal is 60 per­cent turnout among black vot­ers, he said, match­ing the surge for Mr. Obama in 2008.

Mr. John­son stressed that his group is non­par­ti­san and pro­motes black voter par­tic­i­pa­tion re­gard­less of po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion. How­ever, blacks have pro­vided near-mono­lithic sup­port for Democrats in re­cent decades.

The chief ben­e­fi­ciary of the NAACP’s Louisiana ex­per­i­ment would be Sen. Mary L. Lan­drieu, a three-term Demo­crat who faces a strong chal­lenge from Repub­li­can Rep. Bill Cas­sidy. Ms. Lan­drieu trailed Mr. Cas­sidy by 6 per­cent­age points in one of the two most re­cent Real Clear Pol­i­tics sur­veys and was tied in the other.

In a sim­i­lar ef­fort, the North Carolina NAACP is de­ploy­ing about 50 or­ga­niz­ers across the state for the next 10 weeks.

“This is the first time we’ve done some­thing of this cal­iber,” said North Carolina NAACP Pres­i­dent Wil­liam J. Bar­ber II.

The Demo­cratic Se­na­to­rial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee is help­ing per­suade blacks to vote in key South­ern states through its Ban­nock Street Project, a scheme to spend $60 mil­lion and put 4,000 paid staff in 10 states.

Blacks un­ex­pect­edly flexed their mus­cle at the bal­lot box last month in Mis­sis­sippi’s Repub­li­can runoff elec­tion. Sen. Thad Cochran at­tracted enough black sup­port to beat back a fierce chal­lenge from a tea party-backed can­di­date in the state’s open pri­mary con­test.

Mr. Cochran can’t count on blacks to sup­port him en masse in the gen­eral elec­tion. But nei­ther can Demo­cratic can­di­date Travis W. Childers, who is in a long-shot run against Mr. Cochran and is scram­bling to shore up black sup­port.

“What you are see­ing is a shift in African-Amer­i­cans un­der­stand­ing what they got. They are get­ting used to voting,” said Thomas Mills, a Demo­cratic cam­paign con­sul­tant based in Car­rboro, North Carolina, re­fer­ring to the typ­i­cally low turnout among black vot­ers be­fore 2008.

He said Sen. Kay R. Ha­gan, a North Carolina Demo­crat in a tight race against Repub­li­can state House Speaker Thom Til­lis, would be un­stop­pable if she can com­bine strong sup­port among blacks and white women.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.