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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Key Obama Voting Blocs Now Absent

October 10, 2010

Playing a round of golf in the fall of 2007 with then Chief White House Correspondent for the Fox News Channel, Bret Baer, the topic was the 2008 Democrat presidential primary, which had narrowed between Illinois US Senator Barrack Obama, and New York US Senator and former First Lady, Hilary Clinton.

During an ensuing rain delay (Bret is a scratch handicap); he asked who I thought had the edge between the two candidates. I said Senator Obama, based on the fact he had an overwhelming advantage in the primaries among African-American voters.

Bret questioned if that was so, based on the latest polling (at the time) which showed Senator Clinton splitting the African-American vote with Obama, and he also pointed out there are fewer registered black voters in the opening caucus state of Iowa. That state's winner usually provides a great deal of momenteum to the winning candidate.

We agreed on the Iowa voter demographics, but my assertion was that black voters would play a key role in nominating Obama, and I reminded him of early primaries in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia, where the black vote would be crucial.

My thinking was that African-American voters would abandon Senator Clinton, once they had the historic opportunity to elect the first black President.

We now know, of course, that black voters dropped their early support for Clinton, and joined with first-time young voters, to propel the presidential bid of Obama to a historic victory.

These two voting blocs – first-time young voters, and African-Americans, are now absent in their support for Democrats, and their absence is the primary reason Republicans are poised to take over the House, and maybe the Senate, too, in next month’s mid-term elections.

President Obama is perhaps misreading his 2008 election. Instead of it representing a political sea-change or realignment, the primary reason he was able to defeat Senator John McCain, was his ability to motivate these two key Democrat constituencies to come out in droves to vote for him.

Young voters were energized by the Obama “hope and change” message, and fanned out across the country to identify voters, register young people, canvass precincts, and gave whatever money they could.

The truth is young people are not overly involved, nor do they care much about policy, government, and politics, especially the first-time youth voters Obama energized in 2008. They were smitten with him. He was young, attractive, a good speaker, and young people wanted to be part of his movement.

The down side to their support is that it’s hard to keep them motivated over time, and focused. To these voters, the Obama campaign was similar to the latest video game, or summer concert series, they saw it as something to do, for the moment.

Thus, there should be little surprise that their support has waned, and polls show they have no interest in voting to help their local congressman, Republican or Democrat.

African-Americans remain united behind the President, based primarily on his race, although now that the first black President has been elected, they too, are not as enthusiastic about his policies.

Black voters have little interest in trudging to the polls to cast a vote for their local Congressman, and unless things change, their support for President Obama will also be muted in 2012.

No two elections are the same, thus, President Obama cannot take for granted the demographic support he received in 2008, as it won't necessarily be there with the same intensity next time around.

Unless he is able to motivate support among blacks and first-time young voters again, the 2010 mid-term elections will be a precursor for what will come his way in 2012.