Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

Democratic Senate Prospects and the New Black Voter

Democrats plan to turn out thousands of African-American voters this fall, in an effort to hold the Senate majority. The challenge is that some of them aren’t yet registered to vote.

Which begs the question, after opportunities to elect and re-elect the first black president, why would an African-American choose this year’s midterm elections to finally jump from the sidelines and into the game?

This question especially matters given that contests in North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Michigan and Louisiana will help determine control of the Senate.

Democratic strategists believe there is low-hanging fruit in the black populations in Arkansas and Louisiana, where Democrats are defending seats, because those states never saw a well-financed and organized get-out-the-vote effort from President Barack Obama’s campaign. After all, neither state was regarded as competitive in the past two presidential races.

This cycle, Democrats on the House and Senate sides are investing unprecedented amounts of money into their party’s ground game for the midterm elections. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is set to spend $60 million on 4,000 staff in top states through the Bannock Street Project to get out the vote.

Part of that effort is focused on boosting black turnout from traditional midterm levels to something closer to presidential levels in Arkansas and Louisiana, as well as one of the Democrats’ best pickup opportunities in Georgia, and potentially Michigan and North Carolina — both of which saw plenty of attention in 2008 and 2012.

Democrats are encouraged by the Obama campaign’s ability to boost the black percentage of the vote in Ohio from 11 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2012. (Interestingly, the 2010 exit poll in Ohio found blacks constituting 15 percent of the state electorate in that midterm, two years before the Democrats’ major effort in the Buckeye State.)

But it’s one thing to boost African-American turnout in a year when the first black president is seeking re-election, and it is something very different to boost that same turnout during a midterm.

One of the biggest challenges facing Democrats this cycle is enthusiasm. Dan Balz had a good piece on this in The Washington Post after the special election in Florida’s 13th District.

And the African-American community is not immune from the enthusiasm challenge. Democratic strategists aren’t eager to reveal the specific messages they will use to mobilize black voters, but they are likely to try to rally those potential voters around the president and his legislative agenda, including issues of equality and fairness, such as a minimum wage increase, equal pay for women and an immigration overhaul.

Complicating the task is that Democratic strategists will be asking these new black voters to support vulnerable Democratic senators such as Mary L. Landrieu, Mark Pryor and candidates such as Michelle Nunn, each of who must demonstrate a level of independence from Obama’s agenda in order to remain competitive with white voters.

Even if Democrats succeed in registering and turning out more black voters, they will only affect total turnout in those contests at the margins. Of course, in razor thin margins, that could be enough to matter.

In Arkansas, Democrats estimate that there are 121,000 unregistered African-Americans by using census data. By registering a fraction of that population (even somewhere between 10 percent and 30 percent), Democratic strategists believe it could tilt the outcome of the race between Pryor and GOP Rep. Tom Cotton.

The black population of Arkansas is 15 percent. In the 2008 presidential election, black voters made up 12 percent of the electorate, according to exit polls. In the 2010 midterms, black voters made up 11 percent of the electorate. Because the media consortium chose to cut back its exit polling operation, there is no exit poll data for Arkansas for 2012.

Of the top 14 Senate races, Arkansas is one of seven states where the black population cracks double digits. The other states include Louisiana (32 percent), North Carolina (21 percent), Michigan (14 percent), Virginia (19 percent) and Georgia (30 percent).

The other half of the Senate playing field includes states with miniscule black populations. Those states include Alaska (3 percent), Colorado (4 percent), Iowa (3 percent), New Hampshire (1 percent), West Virginia (3 percent), South Dakota (1 percent) and Montana (less than 1 percent).

In Georgia, Democrats are excited about the long-term demographic trends in the state, but strategists believe there is a short-term opportunity to increase black turnout this year. There are an estimated 375,000 African-American voters who voted in 2012 but not 2010, and 572,000 African-Americans still unregistered. And in Louisiana, where Landrieu is running for re-election, Democrats estimate 185,000 African-Americans voted in 2012 but not 2010, and another 228,000 African-Americans are unregistered.

The New York Times did a nice piece on the relationship between the Landrieu family and black voters going back to the senator’s father and up to her brother’s recent mayoral election in New Orleans.

In 2008, black voters made up 29 percent of the vote in the senator’s re-election race, according to the exit poll. Landrieu won the black vote, 96 percent to 2 percent but lost the white vote to Republican John Kennedy 65 percent to 33 percent in her 52 percent statewide victory. Two years later in the midterm, the black percentage of the electorate slipped to 24 percent.

Theoretically there is also an opportunity to increase black turnout in Michigan. The Obama campaign was able to increase black turnout from 12 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2012, and there are an estimated 304,000 unregistered African-Americans in the state. But in midterms, black voters have made up closer to 10 percent of the electorate, according to pollsters who have worked in the state.

Considering long-term historical trends, increasing African-American turnout in a midterm election looks like a long shot or bank shot for Democrats. But for their strategists and campaigns, having a plan and being proactive sounds much better than simply waiting on the shore to be hit by a wave.

  • Hail_to_the_victors

    The voter fraud will be unprecedented. They will steal the senate race in Michigan and maybe the governors race. And black people still wonder why they are hated?

    • wdb

      Wow, that’s a racist comment.

      • Hail_to_the_victors

        Wow! Nevertheless that is the Gods honest truth.

        • Unknown1776

          no, it’s disgusting filth.

          • Hail_to_the_victors

            little man hell in the form of a black mob is coming for you.

  • 1dahliagirl

    I’m a conservative & disagree with your comment abut black people being hated. I’m all for registering all colors to vote for their choice. Being engaged enriches our culture . Let’s have a little reciprocity. IRS , quit your targeting . I belong to True the Vote , which , in addition to poll watching , teaches many classes for adults & children . Just because I’ve nor seen voter fraud in my precinct , doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Poll watchers must have zipped lips ; we may not say hello even to a neighbor. Before we took classes, after an election, one voting machine ended up in another city , with the seal broken. Was their voter fraud ? We’ll never know. Show tolerance . This goes for both sides , although Progressives are more likely to boycott to hurt someone’s livelihood. Repubs. , you need to start treating the Gay community fairly. They have every right to adopt , & , if state’s decide , to marry .
    It is the responsibility of all voters to learn the candidates policies & issues. Those that don’t, get what they deserve. The Democratic Party has not been kind to Blacks over the years. Look to their unemployment rate.


      I’m all for True the vote but I’ll tell you dahlia, I don’t give a damn about any special interest groups, I’m done with caring about fringe BS, the majority is what I care about…..period.

  • Pocho Basura

    “The challenge is that some of them aren’t yet registered to vote”

    This was not been a problem in the recent presidential elections.
    ACORN/SEIU can mount a ‘registration drive’ to ‘signup’ the unregistered voters.
    If this appears to be slow for the election deadline, ACORN/SEIU can ‘dovetail’ the process and just ‘register/vote’ en masse, like in Chicago.

  • ShadrachSmith

    And some of them have been dead for decades.

    • DoucheOwebama

      Well, aside from the obvious stiffs, the DUMBocrat incompetent party and their low-information “voters” have been BRAIN dead for decades…

  • darthgidget

    “The challenge is that some of them aren’t yet registered to vote: and that some aren’t eligible to vote (convicted felons) and some aren’t alive to vote. The challenge is how many times can one voter vote when the voter has but one vote to vote.

  • DoucheOwebama

    $60 million??? Yeah, and we are to trust these incompetent doucheb*gs with ‘fiscal responsibility’… Bast*rds. I guarantee that there will be “dirty voting” with the DUMBocrat a$$hole donkey party….the incompetent doucheb*g Blowbama the Wonder TURD will do ANYTHING to make sure the Libtards win in November AND in 2016.
    What a brain dead piece-of-sh*t the Prevaricator-in-Chief TRULY is…

    • stephan ostanock

      YO! douchie besides being brain dead! you are a nasty poor, and very pathic fool!

      • DoucheOwebama

        Wow…how many years of nursery school did it take you to come up with that incompetent retort, Libtard? Now take the gerbil out of your a$$hole and go back to combing the elementary schools for a prom date, douche…

  • semby

    Democrats don’t have a high regards for black voters. They really think they are stupid and will just vote as they are told. Really when you think about; who are the real racists?

    • the_best_of_times

      well they are stupid.

  • wdb
    Begging the question =/= raising the question

  • Alfred Neuman

    This story is shocking. There must actually be some African Americans who weren’t automatically registered as democrats by their health care exchange when they signed up for ObamaCare.

  • kpm

    some are in Jail Moved away or DEAD!

  • JahaiTolliver

    I love it when you ignorant trolls respond to article like this. Looks like the low information fools are posting racist comments here. What’s the matter? Are you afraid that old white men are becoming an endangered species in American politics? Ha!!

  • Plow Comms

    I think we can all agree that the cankerous blight of today’s liberalism is a foul pox upon the oaks of liberty.

  • stephan ostanock

    Sure plow we can all agree that rethugs are a blight on the political stage! and the world will be a better place with rest of the angry old men die off.And I am a 70 year old white retired Naval Officer. So not all old white men are crazy as you must be?

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