Eight States Where the African-American Vote Will Change the Race
Thu, 08/07/2008 - 11:00am
When party lines are drawn and an election looks close, the end result often hinges on turnout. Much has been made about the enthusiasm of Obama supporters compared to the collective apathy of McCain backers. Still, the polls say it's close. Having known this all along, the Obama campaign has something up their sleeve: organizing African-American turnout. Sure, this is no secret, but will all of this organizing make a difference or is it all a mirage? The answer is, it's real.
The Obama campaign is where it is today because of a smart move to compete in the otherwise forgotten-about caucus states. Its organization and registration push in these states made Obama the nominee. Because of that early organization, the Obama campaign is now on the ground in a number of states, registering hundreds of thousands of new African-American voters.
Why and where will it make a difference? The African-American vote is breaking 95+% for Obama. This means that almost every new African-American registered voter is a vote for Obama. With this in mind, there are eight states where the African-American vote has historically underperformed compared to the state's overall demographics. Because of that, when the Obama team gets their voters out on Election Day, they'll pick up some percentage points that may not be registering in the polls.
Here are the eight states:
FLORIDA: In 2004, the African-American vote in Florida made up 12% of the overall vote. Yet the African-American population makes up 15% of the state. So, keeping in mind that the Obama team's goal here is to match African-American voting with overall demographics, if they are successful, they'd have a net gain of 3%. In 2004, the state broke 52-47 for Bush. A three point gain gives Obama a 50-49 win, based on those numbers.
GEORGIA: Most don't actually believe that Georgia will go blue (for a long time, myself included), but Obama has a strong reason for making a play here. In 2004, the state went for Bush big, 58-41. But the Obama team says there are hundreds of thousands of unregistered African-American voters in this state alone. The numbers bear out the truth of that. In 2004, only 25% of voters here were African-American. The overall make-up of the state? 31%, a whopping six point difference. Using our model, the race in Georgia would become a 52-47 race, quite close for such a state. The X factor? Watch out for Bob Barr, who's been hovering between 3-6 points here.
INDIANA: The Hoosier state is tricky. It's the only Republican Great Lake state out there, and yet somehow Obama is making a play. Many polls show the race tied. Is it the 'Illinois effect?' Maybe. In 2004, the African-American vote was 7%, 3 points lower than the overall demographic. In a state that's tied, three points can go a long way.
LOUISIANA: While Louisiana is the only state on this list that isn't a battleground state, perhaps it should be. One could argue that LA is the most racially divided state in the nation, so Obama's chances are slight. But no state has a possibility of a bigger African-American voting surge than the home of the Bayou. Only 27% of the vote in 2004 was African-American, while the state's demographics show the overall population to be 34%. This seven percent variance is the most profound in the country. Maybe the Obama team should give the state another look, despite the polls.
MICHIGAN: No one has to argue that Michigan is a battleground. In 2004, the AA vote was 13%, two percent lower than the demo numbers. This changes the state from a 51-48 landscape to a 53-46 one, a much more comfortable margin for the Obama team.
MISSOURI: The Show-Me State offered one of the few surprises in the primary season. Obama actually over-performed here, and that may have come from a hidden African-American vote. AA turnout in '04 was a low 8%. The overall demo number is 12%. A four point swing here and the state goes from a 53-47 Obama defeat to a 50-49 Obama win. No wonder the Obama team has sent over 50 paid staffers to the state.
NEVADA: I know what you're saying — Nevada, really? The demographic numbers in Nevada are likely to surprise non-residents. The state demographics show Nevada with an African-American population of 9%, two points higher than the '04 turnout. And, for one of the closest races out there, Obama will take all the two points he can get.
OHIO: The nightmare of '04 has some promising potential for Obama. In 2004, only 10% of the vote was from African-Americans when their overall numbers were 13%. A narrow defeat suddenly becomes a 52-48 Obama advantage. And, of course, a win in Ohio and the election is likely over.
While some might doubt the Obama campaign's ability to succeed in their efforts, I think some of these models may even be conservative. Just look at what happened in states like South Carolina and Georgia, where Obama's organization proved the polls very wrong. Come election night, those nay-sayers may have to just bite their tongue.
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