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After low turnout, Obama tries to get African Americans to go vote for Hillary

There is a lack of enthusiasm among black, Hispanic and young white voters, who were responsible for Barack Obama’s election and re-election.

us presidential election Updated: Nov 02, 2016 22:28 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
barack Obama,Democratic,Republican
US President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event for Hillary Clinton in Columbus, Ohio. (AFP)

US President Barack Obama, the Democratic party's campaigner-in-chief, on Wednesday visited North Carolina, a swing state that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton could win with the support of African American voters.

This was the first of two visits he is slated to make this week — the second on Friday — for back-to-back campaign events for Clinton.

The famed “Obama coalition”, a combination of black, Hispanic and young white voters responsible for his election and re-election in 2008 and 2012, is not transferring to Clinton, whose path to the White House narrows considerably as a result.

The problem is a lack of enthusiasm among African Americans, reflected in lower turnouts than 2012 for early voting — absentee and in-person polling compared. It’s down by 16% in North Carolina and from 24% to 15% in Florida.

“I’m not on the ballot this time,” Obama told a rally in Ohio, another swing state where low turnouts among African Americans are worrying Democrats. “But…America is on the ballot. Hillary Clinton is on the ballot!”

With the race in dead heat now — Clinton leads Donald Trump by 1.7 points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls — and with five days left for polling, both nominees and their surrogates are crisscrossing the country with their closing pitch.

Their focus is on battleground states that will determine the race — Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada and Arizona — and states they control but would like to ensure do not slip out of their grip.

With early voting underway in most states — an estimated 24 million of the 218 million registered voters have already cast their vote — these end-stage rallies and get-out-the-vote events have taken on a predictable urgency.

The lower-than-expected turnout among black voters is a cause for concern not only for Clinton but, as has been pointed out by many, for the Democratic party as well, in a post-Obama scenario. Can those historic turnouts be gone now?

There is no immediate danger of the black vote transferring to Donald Trump because of his flagrant flirtation with racists and politically naive call to the African American community to give him a chance as they have nothing to lose.

They won’t vote for Trump, but will they show up and vote for Clinton? Her campaign appears hopeful of getting up the numbers by election day through door-to-door mobilisation and get-out-the-vote events targeting the community.

It is also relying on a coalition of voter demographics Clinton has forged of her own that included Hispanics (27.5 million voters, 12% of registered voters), and more whites (than what Obama managed), including college-educated women.

About six in 10 (58%) Latino registered voters favour Clinton and only 17% support Trump, according to a PEW poll published in October; and Clinton leads Trump by a massive margin among women — 19 points in a CBS poll last month.

While Clinton found early and ready support among African Americans voters, she has struggled to find traction with the young in the community, who have had the same trust issues with her as many other voter demographics.

Can Obama help convince them, and those who feel less enthusiastic about showing up to vote? He sure is trying, blitzing battleground states over the next few days, with other Clinton surrogates, exhorting supporters to go out and vote.

“Don’t boo, vote,” he tells them, reminding them of a line he used frequently in his own campaigns, when supporters booed a reference to his opponent. “Don’t boo,” he would say and wait for the audience to finish the sentence for him, “Vote.”

First Published: Nov 02, 2016 22:24 IST