© Victoria Sarno Jordan
President Obama is sounding the alarm about low turnout among black voters in key battleground states, arguing it could sink Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden sends 'best wishes' to Clinton following hospitalization The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE’s chances of winning the White House and put his legacy in jeopardy.
“I’m going to be honest with you right now. The Latino vote is up. The overall vote is up. But the African-American vote, right now, is not as solid as it needs to be,” Obama said in an interview that aired Wednesday on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show.”
The president’s comments amplify concerns from top Democrats about low black turnout in early voting, something they fear could cause a problem for Clinton, who is clinging to a narrow lead over Republican Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE.
African-American turnout is down from four years ago in both North Carolina and Florida. The Clinton campaign is plotting a final-week blitz in both states, including two visits to each state by Obama. Black returns in early voting are also down in Ohio, where Obama rallied Democrats on Tuesday.
Observers have blamed the reduction on low voter enthusiasm and new restrictions on early voting. Obama acknowledged things are different for black voters without his name on the ballot, but he said the stakes are too high to let those problems get in the way.
“I need everyone 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 I do,” the president said.
“If you really care about my presidency and what we’ve accomplished, then you are going to go and vote,” he added, urging African-Americans to tell their friends and relatives that the Obamas “personally asked you to vote.”
“It’s not that hard, and I know it’s not that hard because we’ve done it before.”
To combat voter apathy, Obama raised Trump’s stance on the 1989 Central Park Five case, in which five men of color had their assault and rape convictions vacated after another man came forward years later to take responsibility for the crime.
Trump ran ads at the time calling for the return on the death penalty and still argues the five men should be behind bars.
“This is the guy who is suddenly going to help folks get fair treatment in the criminal-justice system?” Obama asked.
“If I hear activists or any young people out there talking about how, ‘Well you know, there ain’t no difference and nothing is going to change.’ No.”