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Fears about black turnout keep Dems awake

Fears about black turnout keep Dems awake
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Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton brings up 'Freedom Fries' to mock 'cancel culture' Edie Falco to play Hillary Clinton in Clinton impeachment series White House defends Biden's 'Neanderthal thinking' remark on masks MORE is almost certain to fall short of the record turnout numbers by black voters that propelled Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaWhy is Joe Biden dodging the public and the press? Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief Pentagon issues report revealing ex-White House doctor 'belittled' subordinates, violated alcohol policies MORE to the White House.  

But how much black turnout does Clinton need on Election Day? 
 
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Neither question is easy to answer in a campaign that has become a battle of demographics. 
 
The Democratic presidential nominee is seeking to reconstitute Obama’s winning coalition of black, Hispanic and Asian voters while keeping her losses among white voters to a minimum. 
 
Trump’s strongest support by far is with white voters. He is hoping the total 2016 electorate is more heavily white than in Obama’s elections. 
 
The nation’s demographics are firmly on Clinton’s side. 
 
The share of the U.S. population that is white is dropping, while the Hispanic and Asian shares are growing. 
 
Yet enthusiasm for Clinton appears to be lower than it was for Obama. And elections are decided by the people who show up and vote, not by sheer demographics. 
 
Cornell Belcher — a Democratic pollster and author of “A Black Man in the White House” who worked on Obama’s reelection campaign, argues that while the demographics are on Clinton’s side, it’s incumbent upon her to capitalize on them. 
 

“In 2012, we had a 72 percent white electorate overall,” Belcher said of Obama’s reelection victory. 
 
“If in 2016, that electorate is, in fact, 73 or 74 percent white, Hillary Clinton is not going to be president,” said Belcher. “If the electorate is 72, 71 percent white … she is going to be president.” 
 
African-Americans made up just 10 and 11 percent of the electorate, respectively, in the 2000 and 2004 general elections, according to exit polls. 
 
But with Obama on the ballot, that changed. 
 
In 2008 and 2012, black turnout was 13 percent, matching the African-American share of the overall population. 
 
Obama also took a large share of that bigger pie. 
 
 
Clinton is expected to win a huge majority of the black vote this year. 
 
 
What isn’t certain is whether blacks will turn out for Clinton — and that could make a difference in several swing states including Ohio, North Carolina and Florida. 
 
Obama brought out black Americans who hadn’t voted before. Without Obama on the ballot, some Democrats are concerned that turnout could slump to a level that could put Clinton in danger. 
 
In a possible sign of the concern, Clinton will appear Friday in Detroit to shore up black support in a state that was once thought to be solid Democratic territory. 
 
The president himself appears worried. 
 
Obama this week warned in an interview with radio host Tom Joyner that the black vote is “not as solid as it needs to be.” 
 
Belcher argues that Democrats need to do more to engage voters.
 
“More time, more resources, more attention needs to be focused here,” he said in an interview. “If there is a potential for a drop-off from what we saw in 2008 and 2012, it is with younger African-Americans. And those younger African-Americans were critical to Barack Obama’s success.” 
 
Media reports showing a dip in African-American turnout during early voting in North Carolina and Florida have fueled Democratic worries, though experts say it is wrong to draw sweeping conclusions from the numbers. 
 
“I think what it suggests is we won’t have record turnout, and that’s not surprising,” said Andra Gillespie, a professor of political science at Emory University who studies black voting patterns. 
 
“Reasonable turnout models would have factored in the lower potential for black turnout. It doesn’t mean that turnout is going to crater or be disastrous.”
 
Belcher also pushes back on the notion that Clinton is underperforming with black voters in Florida so far. 
 
Data compiled by University of Florida professor Daniel Smith showed blacks’ share of the early in-person voters there has decreased from 25 percent in 2012 to 15 percent this year. That’s accompanied by a 4 percentage point increase in the share of white early voters. 
  
But Belcher said 180,000 more black voters have cast ballots in Florida compared with the same point in 2012. He chalked up smaller percentage totals to the fact that all racial groups, including Hispanics, are casting early ballots at a faster pace.
 
North Carolina — where black turnout is down 16 percent in early voting — is more concerning. 
 
Democrats have blamed Republican officials’ decision to limit the number of early-voting sites, particularly in areas with large African-American population. 
 
They’ve called it an outgrowth of a voter ID law struck down by a federal appeals court this summer, which judges said was meant to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision."
 
Stumping for Clinton Wednesday in the state, a fiery Obama used the voting restrictions as a motivating tool, likening them to Jim Crow-era literacy tests. 
 
“How are we going to betray all those who worked so hard, risked everything for the vote so that we could pull the lever — and we’re not going to vote?” Obama said. “What’s our excuse?"
 
The Clinton campaign believes it will make up ground in North Carolina by Election Day, citing higher turnout in the last few days in heavily black areas. 
 
Even if black support slips for Clinton, some experts believe her own unique coalition could carry her to victory. They think she can offset those losses among blacks with substantial gains from other constituencies, including college-educated white women and Latinos.
 
But Democrats will have seen it as a lost opportunity to cement the coalition Obama built into a lasting foundation for the Democratic Party. 
 
Belcher said it would be a mistake for the party and liberal groups to keep spending resources going after “the mythical unicorn of the swing white voter” at the expense of keeping young African-Americans in the fold.