CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — President Barack Obama twice generated a historic wave of African-American support on his way to the White House, but worries now the black vote “is not as solid as it needs to be” for Hillary Clinton.
Obama’s and Clinton’s travel schedules are taking them to swing-state metro areas with significant black populations, and the two officials are fixtures in black-audience media. Their message is consistent: Clinton will fight for the black community, while Republican Donald Trump would turn back the clock for voters that helped propel Obama to comfortable national victories. Former President Bill Clinton is pitching in too, with an unannounced stop in Detroit Wednesday night to meet privately with black ministers and boost his wife’s chances in battleground Michigan.
“I need everybody to understand that everything we’ve done is dependent on me being able to pass the baton to somebody who believes in the same things I believe in,” Obama told nationally syndicated radio host Tom Joyner in an interview broadcast Wednesday.
Yet, problems could arise for Clinton if Trump draws a surge of white support. That would make her African-American margins and the overall black turnout especially critical in Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Then, it could matter whether black voters make up 15 percent of the Ohio electorate, as they did in 2012, or something closer to 9 percent, as they did in 2004, when Republican President George W. Bush won the state and a second term.
Nationally, black voters cast about 13 percent of presidential ballots for Obama’s two victories, up from the 11 percent benchmark in previous decades.
Democrats are trying to leave nothing to chance.
Obama’s appearance in North Carolina followed an appearance Tuesday in Ohio. He has two Florida rallies Thursday, in Jacksonville and Miami, and he plans to return to the state Sunday, visiting Orlando on the final day of early voting in the state. Vice President Joe Biden met earlier this week with black leaders in Philadelphia, and Michelle Obama has taken a prominent role in the campaign.
Clinton, meanwhile, warmly embraces Obama’s sentiments. “I want to build on the legacy that President Obama has given us,” she told radio host LeRoy Jones, another nationally syndicated black media personality, earlier this week.
Her campaign is broadcasting an ad on black-audience radio stations hailing the former secretary of state as “fighting for us,” in contrast to Trump “demeaning our community.” A female voice in the ad says, “Listen to how he talks about us.” One audio clip has Trump singling out a black supporter at a rally in California: “Look at my African-American over here,” he said. In another, Trump lambasted Obama as “the most ignorant president in our history.”
As she travels to battleground states, Clinton has focused on nonwhite voters and encouraged early voting. Many of her events are near early voting sites.
She spent Sunday at a soul-food restaurant and a black church. On Tuesday, she traveled with Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights hero from Atlanta, who reminded Clinton supporters of the struggle to secure the right to vote.
“We must get out and vote like we’ve never voted before,” Lewis told a crowd of about 4,000 people in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Don’t let anyone keep you home.”