Clinton re­news pitch to black vot­ers

Pres­i­dent Obama says legacy on the line

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

With Don­ald Trump surg­ing in the polls, ad­vo­cates are sound­ing the alarm that Hil­lary Clinton could fail to gen­er­ate the turnout lev­els among black vot­ers that Pres­i­dent Obama did in 2008 and 2012 — vot­ers she will need to hold off Mr. Trump in the hand­ful of bat­tle­ground states that could ul­ti­mately de­cide the elec­tion.

“She knows some­thing has to hap­pen,” said Les­lie Wimes, pres­i­dent of the Florida-based Demo­cratic African-Amer­i­can Women’s Cau­cus. “I do think that they’re in full-blown panic mode.”

With­out Mr. Obama on the ticket, “black peo­ple are not go­ing to come out,” Ms. Wimes said, un­der­scor­ing the grim elec­toral re­al­ity.

Black vot­ers in 2012 cast bal­lots at a higher per­cent­age than white vot­ers for the first time in mod­ern recorded his­tory — and help­ing Mr. Obama to an eas­ierthan-ex­pected re-elec­tion vic­tory.

Fear­ing a drop-off, Democrats are at­tempt­ing an all-hands-on-deck ap­proach, de­ploy­ing Mr. Obama and his wife Michelle to try to boost en­thu­si­asm and mak­ing di­rect over­tures to black vot­ers.

Dur­ing Mon­day’s pres­i­den­tial de­bate, Mrs. Clinton crit­i­cized Mr. Trump for “racist” busi­ness prac­tices, and has ham­mered him for pro­mot­ing the “racist lie” that Mr. Obama, the United States’ first black pres­i­dent, wasn’t born in his na­tive Hawaii.

For his part, Mr. Obama has mocked Mr. Trump for say­ing the black com­mu­nity is in his­tor­i­cally bad shape in a coun­try once home to slav­ery, and has re­cently taken to putting the 2016 elec­tion in starkly per­sonal terms.

“The no­tion some­how that well, you know, I’m not as in­spired [be­cause] Barack and Michelle, they’re not on the bal­lot this time and maybe we got to take it easy — my legacy’s on the bal­lot,” Mr. Obama said this week dur­ing an ap­pear­ance on Steve Harvey’s radio show, which is pop­u­lar among black audiences.

Pri­or­i­ties USA Ac­tion, the main proClin­ton su­per PAC, is also us­ing sim­i­lar com­ments from the pres­i­dent’s speech at a re­cent Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus Foun­da­tion event in a new tele­vi­sion ad cam­paign in Ohio, North Carolina and Florida.

“Af­ter we have achieved his­toric turnout in 2008 and 2012, es­pe­cially in the AfricanAmer­i­can com­mu­nity, I will con­sider it a per­sonal in­sult — an in­sult to my legacy — if this com­mu­nity lets down its guard and fails to ac­ti­vate it­self in this elec­tion,” Mr. Obama said. “You want to give me a good send-off ? Go vote.”

In ad­di­tion to Mr. Harvey’s pro­gram, which Mrs. Clinton also ap­peared on re­cently, the cam­paign is also tar­get­ing black vot­ers through other me­dia.

Ter­rence J, an ac­tor and TV per­son­al­ity who has been a host on Black En­ter­tain­ment Tele­vi­sion, cut a re­cent radio ad tout­ing Mrs. Clinton’s plan to in­vest $25 bil­lion in his­tor­i­cally black col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties.

“It’s on us to get ev­ery­body in Florida reg­is­tered by the Oct. 11 dead­line, and let’s get ev­ery­body vot­ing for Hil­lary,” he says.

Na­tion­wide, Mr. Obama car­ried 95 per­cent of the black vote in 2008 and 93 per­cent of the black vote in 2012, ac­cord­ing to exit polls.

And 66 per­cent of African-Amer­i­cans el­i­gi­ble to vote turned out, com­pared to 64 per­cent for white turnout, ac­cord­ing to U.S. Cen­sus data. In 2008 white turnout had been 66 per­cent and black turnout had been 65 per­cent.

Rep. Bar­bara Lee, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat and a mem­ber of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus, said in her trav­els to bat­tle­ground states like Colorado, Florida and Ne­vada that she is see­ing en­thu­si­asm on the ground, though she ac­knowl­edged there’s still work to do.

“When you talk to African-Amer­i­cans about what Sec­re­tary Clinton’s plat­form is and what she stands for … peo­ple get very en­gaged,” she said on a re­cent con­fer­ence call or­ga­nized by the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee.

“I’m very op­ti­mistic, but we know that we have a lot of work to do,” she said.

Mr. Trump has re­cently tried to reach out with ap­pear­ances at largely black churches. He’s also asked African-Amer­i­cans what they have to lose by vot­ing for him, since he says Demo­cratic poli­cies have failed the black com­mu­nity for so long.

“I don’t think African-Amer­i­cans are go­ing to come out and vote for Hil­lary Clinton,” Mr. Trump said at a cam­paign event in New Hamp­shire Thurs­day. “They’re too smart and they know they’re just be­ing used by her and her cam­paign.”

Bishop E.W. Jack­son, a black min­is­ter based in Ch­e­sa­peake, Vir­ginia, said Mr. Obama’s re­cent over­tures demon­strate that a lot of his sup­port was strictly racial and that Mrs. Clinton sim­ply doesn’t have the same kind of sol­i­dar­ity, say­ing a bit of move­ment to­ward Mr. Trump could go a long way.

“I think even if he doesn’t take a lot of votes away from her, I think if he gives peo­ple pause and gives them a rea­son to feel that I don’t nec­es­sar­ily want to vote for Hil­lary Clinton — maybe I don’t want to vote for Don­ald Trump ei­ther, but I cer­tainly don’t want to vote for Hil­lary Clinton — I think that that could make a ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion to his ul­ti­mate vic­tory,” said Mr. Jack­son, the 2013 Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for lieu­tenant gov­er­nor in Vir­ginia.

Ms. Wimes, orig­i­nally a sup­porter of Sen. Bernard San­ders, did say she’s vot­ing for Mrs. Clinton, but sug­gested the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee do some­thing more tan­gi­ble, like re­lease a 100-day plan for the black com­mu­nity.

“She can’t just say ‘black lives mat­ter,’” Ms. Wimes said. “We know that black lives mat­ter. She has to get out there to give us some­thing tan­gi­ble that says maybe she is go­ing to do some­thing for the black com­mu­nity — some­thing that we can put our hand on.”

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