The most perplexing question surrounding this year’s Republican race for the presidential nomination has been why can’t Mitt Romney seem to close the deal, despite running against what many consider an inferior set of opponents.
He has rarely exceeded 20 or 25 percent in national polls. And many pundits believe that the 25 percent support he has garnered thus far is about as far as Romney’s support will go — which leaves him extremely vulnerable to candidates like Newt Gingrich, who is working to distinguish himself as the latest ‘non-Romney’ candidate and consolidate much of the remaining 75 percent of the Republican vote.
There was Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and now Gingrich. While the non-Romney’s rose and fell, Romney’s numbers have never seemed to move, with voters seemingly transferring their support from one surging candidate to the next.
“So far, with only three states having weighed in on who the nominee should be, I don't think it's fair to say that Romney isn't able to close the deal,” said Client Strategist for the Republican National Committee Eric Wilson. “At the end of the day, Republicans are going to unite around our nominee, because any of the candidates still in the race will make a better president than Barack Obama.”
If you look beyond the top-line data in the polls, it becomes clear that nowhere near 75 percent of Republican voters have been vehemently opposed to nominating Romney. A Gallup poll conducted before New Hampshire’s primary, for instance, found that only about 30 percent of Republican voters considered Romney an unacceptable nominee. These numbers have bounced around a bit from time to time and from survey to survey, but these results are fairly typical when questions like these are put to the voters.
About 25 percent of Republican voters are in Romney’s base (incidentally, about 22 percent of Republicans nationwide voted for Romney in their party’s primaries in 2008). And about 30 percent of the Republican primary electorate is truly opposed to him.
That leaves a swing group of about 45 percent of the vote. These voters can certainly imagine candidates that they’d prefer to Romney — but they also consider him an acceptable choice, more or less.
What seems to have become clear is that the hypothetical candidate these voters might have preferred to Romney has not materialized.
There are enough substantive and stylistic differences between the various non-Romney candidates that they should not be viewed as interchangeable, this evidence suggests. A considerable number of Santorum’s voters prefer Romney to Gingrich; a considerable number of Gingrich’s voters prefer Romney to Santorum.
And voters in the swing group are now settling for Romney. They are not necessarily doing so enthusiastically: A recent Pew poll found that there has been little improvement in Republican voters’ overall views of their candidates, which is unusual but not unprecedented.
The 2004 Democratic presidential race parallels this one in many ways.
For example, Democratic turnout was reasonably strong in November 2004, despite voters’ initial lack of enthusiasm for John Kerry. The opportunity to beat a polarizing incumbent is a powerful motivating force.
Jon Huntsman was candid when he offered insight into just how little faith Republicans have that Romney can beat Obama. Keep in mind, Huntsman has thrown his support behind Romney now that he is no longer in the race.
A recent Gallup poll found that GOP enthusiasm is on the decline. Republicans and Democrats are almost even, enthusiasm-wise, as they move further into the election year.
And the 2012 election is looking more like a carbon copy of 2008, which also looked an awful lot like 1996. Republicans are lining up behind Romney. The GOP seems to be coming to the realization that they have to nominate somebody, so it might as well be Mitt Romney.
But Romney's sudden downgrade from Republican frontrunner to potential also-ran coincided with a massive shift of conservative Christian voters in South Carolina to Gingrich's camp.
Why? Many observers trace it to lingering suspicion among evangelicals — a key Republican constituency — about Romney's Mormon faith.
And that has led some to suggest that Romney needs to make a speech about his Mormonism along the lines of John F. Kennedy's defense of his Catholicism to Protestant leaders during the 1960 campaign.
So could Romney pull a Kennedy? Should he?
Mike Huckabee, an evangelical favorite who sought the GOP nod in 2008, told Fox News after Romney's South Carolina implosion that the time had come for Romney to give it a shot.
"I do think he ought to address it," Huckabee said, arguing that such a speech would "sort of dismiss it, make it less important."Top of Form
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But few political observers, and apparently even fewer Romney's allies, appear to be urging that step.
For one thing, the tracking polls in the GOP contest over the past months have registered more spikes and dips than an erratic electrocardiogram. Romney's cardiac moment in South Carolina — and his continuing struggle heading into Tuesday’s Florida primary — needs to be seen in that context.
"I think it was more a result of Newt Gingrich catching fire combined with a pretty tough week for Mitt on issues like taxes and income," said David French, a social conservative and Romney ally who with his wife, Nancy, just published a book, "Why Evangelicals Should Support Mitt Romney (and Feel Good About It!)."
"It's a pretty conventional narrative — at least by the conventions of this very volatile race," French added. "If there was any blanket anti-Mormon sentiment, then Mitt would not have been up to begin with."
When Kennedy addressed the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September 1960, it was only two months before the November election, and he did not have to worry about his Democratic base the way Romney has to worry about securing the GOP base to win the primaries.
Kennedy's chief task in 1960 actually was not to convert his audience; they were already a lost cause, and he knew it. What the Kennedy campaign hoped to do was to influence the 23 percent of the wider electorate who were still undecided.
"The campaign's polling showed that yes, if Kennedy could paint himself as a victim of anti-Catholic bigotry, that will move people your way," said Shaun Casey, a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary and author of "The Making of a Catholic President: Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960." And it worked.
Romney's "religion" problem is about numbers as much as theology. As Casey notes, Kennedy's other task in Houston was to rally his Catholic base, which he did. But rallying an already strong GOP Mormon base wouldn't do much for Romney.
While Kennedy had a Catholic population of 40 million behind him — about one-quarter of the electorate, concentrated in key battleground states — Mormons today number just about 2 million, and are geographically concentrated in the Mountain West in mostly reliable red states (with the exception of toss-ups Nevada and Colorado).
Romney already gave a "Houston" speech — and it didn't work. Back in 2007, Romney was struggling to overcome evangelicals' doubts about his Mormon faith. While the speech was well received, it didn't move Iowa caucus-goers back then, and a second speech now would likely not convince suspicious evangelicals in Florida (and beyond).
Romney's biggest task is convincing conservative Christians that he is a conservative, not that he is a Christian.
Evangelicals have shown they are happy to back all sorts of unorthodox candidates – Herman Cain being a perfect example. Evangelicals may not love Mormons, but they are really down on moderates. Indeed, Romney is arguably "not Mormon enough," Richard Land, a top Southern Baptist official, said on the eve of the South Carolina vote.
"If his stance on life and his stance on marriage had been consistently what the stance of the Mormon church has been, he would have far less doubts among social conservatives," Land said.
Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a top evangelical political activist, said he doesn't think Romney's Mormonism will necessarily preclude him from winning evangelical votes or the GOP nomination, so he doesn't need to make the Kennedy speech at this point.
"Bottom line is," said Reed, "he may need to address it as the campaign proceeds, and he may choose to address it as part of a speech down the road."
In Florida, which is more diverse and less ideological than South Carolina, cooler heads could prevail if Romney can exploit his advantage in minions and millions. He has had the airwaves largely to himself for weeks, accompanied by a superior organization. Romney's campaign is in attack mode now – a sign that the campaign shares the Washington insiders' anxiety.
“The process is working and there's still time for voters to decide,” said Wilson. “Romney's greatest appeal continues to be the 'electability argument' and as long as he continues to raise the money needed to fuel his organization, he'll be in the contest. The other candidates remaining in the race don't have organizations on par with Romney so in many ways they're playing catch up.”
The New York Times Contributed to this report.
Zack Burgess is the enterprise writer for The Tribune. He is a freelance writer and Editor who covers culture, politics and sports. He can be contacted at zackburgess.com.
WASHINGTON — One of the oldest U.S. civil rights groups says President Barack Obama may have a tougher time winning at least three battleground states in November if Black voter turnout falls at least 5 percentage points below the record levels that helped to put him in the White House.
Black voter turnout of 64.7 percent was a significant factor in Obama's victory in 2008, and African Americans are considered solidly behind Obama now. But having achieved the milestone of electing the nation's first Black president, Black voters may be less motivated to return to the polls in droves again, the National Urban League said in a report released this week.
The Urban League released its report ahead of the president's July 25 speech scheduled for opening day at its national convention in New Orleans, and a week after Romney was booed at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People convention for saying, among other things, that he would repeal Obama's landmark health care law if he is elected.
Assuming no change in 2008 voting patterns, Urban League researchers said, Black turnout at about 60 percent or below could cost Obama the state of North Carolina and make it difficult for him to win Ohio and Virginia. In addition to diminished voter enthusiasm, the still-ailing economy, persistent high unemployment among Blacks, new state voting laws and limited growth in the African-American population could help discourage turnout.
"We achieved a high-water mark in America in 2008. For the first time, African Americans were at the table with white America" because the turnout of Black voters was just 1.4 points below white voters, said Chanelle Hardy, senior vice president and executive director of the National Urban League Policy Institute. But, "because we achieved so much in 2008, we have to push even harder to meet those numbers."
"President Obama does not take a single vote or support from any community for granted, and he is working to secure the same levels of support based on policies that give everyone a fair shot and the opportunity to succeed," said Clo Ewing of the Obama campaign.
The campaign for likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney said he would compete for Black votes.
Tara Wall, a spokeswoman for Romney's campaign, said Romney acknowledges he won't get a majority of Black voters' support but recognizes Obama can't count on the margins he once enjoyed.
"Every percentage point that we chip away from President Obama counts," Wall said.
A number of other changes could affect the influence of the Black vote. Increased turnout of Hispanic voters, who went heavily for Obama in 2008, or drops in the turnout of conservative Republicans could conceivably offset a lower Black-voter turnout.
Marc Morial, National Urban League president, said the African-American vote should not be thought of as static, even if Black voters are expected to overwhelmingly cast their ballots for Obama. "We wanted to point out that turnout makes a difference, and African-American turnout makes a difference," Morial said.
African-American voter turnout has been on a steady climb since 1996, when turnout was just 53 percent.
Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory University, said mobilization will be key. "You just can't take anything for granted in this type of race where you've got this level of polarization." -- (AP)
If you’re Black in America, it appears that the country’s most important political strategists, and its most visible political candidates, have already written you off. They’ve decided, somehow, that you no longer matter, that your vote is not worth “courting,” as they try to gather the support they need to win the upcoming Presidential election.
Strategists in both parties don’t bother reaching out to you because you’ve already made it abundantly clear that you don’t have any issues that you, yourself, are willing to fight for. Republican strategists, specifically, don’t try because they believe we put allegiance to the Democratic Party ahead of all else.
In fact, following a recent highly questionable poll, conducted on behalf of BET, the pollster announced that Barack Obama commanded 94 percent of the Black vote, and that Mitt Romney could claim 0 percent. None, not a single digit, nothing.
It didn’t sound plausible. After all, we all know there will always be SOME Black Americans who still relate to the “Party of Lincoln.” There will always be SOME who consider themselves “conservative,” “extreme capitalists,” members of the “religious right,” or just plain “anti-Democrats,” for their own reasons.
At the same time, Democratic strategists haven’t felt the need to address our issues, because they know they can count on us, like clock-work, providing high-80 percent, and low-90 percent support levels to their party, no matter what.
To the Republicans, therefore, we’re seen as a “lost cause;” to the Democrats we’re considered “cooked, packaged, and ready for delivery.” With our track record of voting overwhelmingly Democratic in presidential elections dating all the way back to Franklin D. Roosevelt, and our “love and adoration” for Barack Obama, the Democrats, not surprisingly, feel no concern, at all, that we will stray from the “reservation,” on election day.
So where does that leave us with November 6 fast-approaching?
After marching and dying for the right to vote, after the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement, after fighting to register every eligible Black voter in our communities, nationwide, we’ve been reduced to mere “bystanders” in our country’s most important election.
There are 42 million Black people in the U.S. and, as of November, 2010, we constituted 12 percent of all the country’s registered voters. That compares to Hispanics, who represented 7 percent of all registered voters, Asians, who represented 2.5 percent of registered voters, and whites who saw their numbers decline by 2.9 percent, to 77.5 percent of registered voters, by the same date.
When you consider the fact that one out of every eight registered voters in this country is a Black person, it's difficult to accept the fact that both parties, both major candidates, have gone out of their way to exclude us from the national political conversation.
Black unemployment has remained consistently at a level that is about twice as high as white unemployment. In fact, the government recently reported that, as of the end of September, Black unemployment stood at 13.4 percent, while white unemployment was 7.0 percent (Hispanic unemployment, by the way, was announced at 9.9 percent).
Somehow, for some reason, Black folks in this country continue to catch way more hell in the job market than everybody else.
Do we care? Are we holding anybody accountable for that? Do we want that pattern to be turned around by whoever wins on November 6?
If that’s what we want, we certainly haven’t said so. Maybe we’re beginning to believe that it’s normal and appropriate for Black people to be twice as unemployed as whites, more unemployed than Hispanics, and almost three times more unemployed than Asians (4.8 percent).
Maybe what Black folks used to say about themselves, in the South, years ago, is still true: “We’ve been down so long, getting up don’t even cross our minds.”
How about the disproportionately negative impact of high-rate subprime mortgage loans and home foreclosures on the Black community? The Center for Responsible Lending has disclosed that about 11 percent of Black homeowners are in “some state of foreclosure, “ and that more than one million Black families will lose their homes in the year 2012.
The Washington Post has reported that those foreclosure rates would damage the credit scores of future generations of Blacks — permanently.
In addition, due largely to a combination of discriminatory lending practices, and Blacks often being “first-fired” in corporate layoffs, Black home ownership has dropped from 50 percent, six years ago, to 44.8 percent, in 2011. That compares to a 74.1 percent home ownership rate for white Americans.
Who should be held accountable for not interceding with financial institutions and large corporations on our behalf, in these situations? Maybe it should be the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, Mitt Romney and the beloved President Barack Obama. None of them seems to be interested in the job.
Also, schools in Black communities are the most underfunded and the worst-performing in the country, so, as bad as things are now, our futures most likely will be even worse.
How else have candidates demonstrated their complete disregard and disdain for Black voters? Among other things, they leave your communities out of their budgets, and they don’t visit your neighborhoods, when it’s time to make a political speech.
Hey, judging by the content at the last, sorry “presidential debate,” both candidates also seemed to go out of their way to avoid even saying the words "Black," "African American," "West Indian," or "African." Even when the esteemed Mr. Obama talked about his family on Wednesday, he was very careful only to mention the respect and admiration he holds for his grandmother and grandfather, who came from Kansas, while saying not a single word about his grandmother or grandfather from Kenya.
That didn't seem to matter to us.
We were, apparently, too focused on whether the "Republican who ignores us" or the “Democrat who ignores us" put on the best show, during the debate.
There was no outcry about the absence of our issues from the two candidates’ talking points, from any of our so-called Black leaders.
Even worse, since the campaign began, we have been able to identify no senior-level campaign operatives in either the Romney campaign or the Obama campaign. With Black folks having already declared their undying allegiance to Barack Obama and his re-election, we shouldn’t have been shocked by such a situation among the members of the Republican candidate’s brain trust.
But, Team Obama, despite its assumption that Black voters have nowhere else to go, could have benefitted significantly from input at the senior level that might have helped to keep 14 million potential Black voters energized and turned out, on Election Day.
Perhaps we should have gotten a clue when the president opted not to attend the NAACP National Convention, or when he failed to attend the Black Caucus Gala, just last month, or when he joined Romney in declining an invitation from the National Newspaper Publishers Association to engage in a public discussion of Black issues.
After the debate, Team Obama immediately began to circulate among other excuses, the notion that the President’s dispassionate, unfocused and losing performance was based on his concern about being perceived as an “angry Black man."
Hey, there’s a time and a place for everything — including justifiable anger.
What the African-American community needs; in fact, what America needs, is a new generation of intelligent, courageous, issues-focused, “angry Black men and women” to go along with the “angry Hispanics,” “angry Jewish people,” “angry gays," “angry Asians,” and "angry whites” that we already have as part of our national political process.
Until we, in the Black community, identify such people, and put them to work for us, we’ll most certainly continue to be "political bystanders" in our own county’s most important elections.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
Mitt Romney wants to have it both ways — he wants to distance himself from Donald Trump’s remarks on President Obama’s birth, but not from Trump himself.
Trump continues to push conspiracy theories about Obama’s birth.
On Tuesday, Trump once again embraced the discredited birther movement by declaring on CNBC that “there are some major questions here that the press doesn’t want to cover.”
“Nothing’s changed my mind,” Trump said, reaffirming his doubts about the president’s Hawaiian birth certificate. “I walk down the street and people are screaming, ‘Please don’t give that up.’”
In response, Romney sought to distance himself from the conspiracy comments while still embracing the man who made the remarks.
“You know, I don’t agree with all the people who support me, and my guess is they don’t all agree with everything I believe in,” Romney said. “But I need to get 50.1 percent or more, and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”
Aides to Romney have said he does not question the president’s birth and accept that Obama was born in the United States.
After all, doubts about the president’s birthplace have been thoroughly discredited by mainstream news organizations and rejected by Democrat and Republican leadership.
But Romney has shown no willingness to distance himself from Trump.
When confronted with a similar situation Senator John McCain corrected extreme comments he encountered at town-hall meetings during the 2008 presidential campaign.
There has been attempt by some to compare Trump’s comments to Bill Maher, the liberal comedian who has called the Mormon religion a “cult” and has given the Obama campaign a million dollars.
The president has distance himself from Maher’s comments and David Axelrod, a senior adviser, canceled an appearance on Maher’s show. Obama has not held a joint fund-raiser with the comedian, unlike Romney.
For the Romney campaign it is clear that his refusal to denounce Trump is about both receiving money from Trump and an unwillingness to alienate those voters who still believe Obama was not born in the U.S. and therefore should not be president
What is also clear that once again Romney who has shown a history of flip flopping on major social issues to gain the support of conservatives has failed once again another test of character and leadership in his unwillingness to strongly denounce extremism.
While Democrats — who far outnumber Republicans in Philadelphia — held court at a gala at the ballroom of the Warwick Hotel to rejoice President Barack Obama’s re-election, the reaction 15 blocks east was more subdued.
“Congratulations to President Obama and the Democratic Party on their victory,” said John Featherman, a Republican who ran against U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and lost. “The American people spoke, and I urge my colleagues to respect the will of the people. Differences that Republicans have with Democrats should no longer be met with obstruction.”
Featherman attended a Republican watch party on South Street Tuesday night, it was a group made up of what he called “loyal opposition” — Republicans from Philadelphia who have split with the party’s traditional leaders. Both sides agreed to a truce during the presidential election.
On the other side, Calvin Tucker, a Black Republican, speaking Wednesday, also congratulated the president.
“Hopefully, we can now get about the business of addressing some of the major issues that confront the nation and Philadelphia,” he said, adding that he too, would like to see the GOP embrace African Americans.
“What we have to do is engage the African-American community in a broader discussion about the issues they’re confronting,” Tucker said. “We’ve got to not be seen as the party who is not receptive to the big tent. If we do, we’ll have some success in the future.”
Featherman and the loyal opposition gathered in a second floor room at Paddy Whacks Pub at Second and South streets where about 125 Philadelphia Republicans watched the returns come in. Members of the city’s Grand Old Party gathered in knots near the bar and the buffet, steaming along the back wall, grazing on hors d'oeuvres and cocktails as overhead television sets carried the election results.
At least five flat screens — all turned to Fox News — carried election news to the faithful.
At 9:15 p.m. when the network projected that Obama had carried Pennsylvania, few people seemed to notice. There was a notable lack of enthusiasm, summed up by one woman as she filled her plate at the buffet.
“I don’t think tonight is going to be very exciting,” she said to the man next to her. He nodded in agreement as they meandered off to a table.
Featherman noted that many in the room were lukewarm in their support of Romney. As an example, he said he supported Ron Paul in the primary.
“That crowd was not an ordinary group of Republicans,” he said. “We tend to be more Center City professionals and once we register the numbers, we’re not going to spew hateful kinds of responses. Many of those people did not support Romney in the primary, so I don’t think they had much emotion invested in Romney.”
That 84 percent of Philadelphians had supported the Democrat was unremarkable.
But, outside the city and region ,the race had become a nail-biter.
By 10 p.m. with 56 percent of the state’s votes counted, most media outlets, including the New York Times and CBS News, trumpeted Obama’s win in Pennsylvania and the 20 electoral votes it gave the president.
Pennsylvania’s highest ranking Republican refused to concede anything.
“There’s a long way to go,” Gov. Tom Corbett told the Associated Press, waving away the party’s loss in Pennsylvania.
He would be proven wrong shortly after that statement.
In Philadelphia, on Election Day, party officials vigorously defended its prerogatives — suing to have a mural depicting Obama painted on the wall of the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School polling place covered up, and fighting to make sure minority inspectors were allowed in all polling places.
The congenial crowd at Paddy’s clung to the hope that Romney would somehow garner the 270 electoral votes needed to win the contest. But, with most of the voting behind them, that hope consisted mostly of glancing up from their drinks more frequently.
As the clock approached 10:30 p.m., many news outlets showed Romney pulling ahead with electoral votes 158 to 147. Fox defied the trend and reported both men in an electoral tie 163 to 163.
Chatter in the room increased, momentarily.
But California and its 55 electoral votes remained uncounted. None of the states of the far west had been counted.
At 11 p.m. western returns started to come in. Fox reported that California and Washington had backed Obama, netting the president 67 electoral votes.
By 11:19 even Fox was giving Obama 268. The crowd at Paddy’s thinned.
Early Wednesday morning it was clear that the president had won with 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 206.
“I’m hoping we can put aside the rancor, and let the president and Democratic Party try to speak for the American people,” said Featherman on Wednesday morning.
Results tallied Tuesday are preliminary — the count only becomes official in Pennsylvania only after the state Department of State certifies the results, a process that can take several days.
Surviving slavery, segregation and discrimination has forged a special pride in African-Americans. Now some are saying this hard-earned pride has become prejudice in the form of blind loyalty to President Barack Obama.
Are Black people supporting Obama mainly because he's Black? If race is just one factor in Blacks' support of Obama, does that make them racist? Can Blacks' support for Obama be compared with white voters who may favor his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, because he's white?
These questions have long animated conservatives who are frustrated by claims that white people who oppose Obama's policies are racist. This week, when a Black actress who tweeted an endorsement of Romney was subjected to a stream of abuse from other African-Americans, the politics of racial accusation came full circle once again.
Stacey Dash, who also has Mexican heritage, is best known for the 1995 film "Clueless" and the recent cable-TV drama "Single Ladies." On Twitter, she was called "jigaboo," ''traitor," ''house nigger" and worse after posting, "Vote for Romney. The only choice for your future."
The theme of the insults: A Black woman would have to be stupid, subservient or both to choose a white Republican over the first Black president.
Russell Simmons, the hip-hop mogul and Obama backer, called Dash's experience "racism." Said Barbara Walters on "The View": "If she were white, this wouldn't have happened."
Twitter users are by no means representative of America, and many Black Obama supporters quickly denounced the attacks. But for people like Art Gary, an information technology professional, the reason Dash was attacked is simple: She is a Black woman supporting a white candidate over a Black one.
"It goes both ways," said Gary, who is white. "There is racial bias amongst whites, and there is racial bias amongst Blacks. But as far as the press is concerned, it only goes one way."
Antonio Luckett, a sales representative in Milwaukee who is Black, called the attacks on Dash unfair. But when people speak out against a symbol of Black progress like Obama, he said, "African-Americans tend to be internally hurt by that."
"We still have a civil rights (era) mentality, but we're not living in a civil rights-based world anymore," he said. "We want to say, 'You're Black, you need to stand behind Black people.'"
Luckett said one reason he voted for Obama in the 2008 primary against Hillary Clinton was because Obama is Black: "Yes, I will admit that."
Is that racism? Not in Luckett's mind. "It's voting for someone who would understand your side of the coin a lot better."
Such logic runs into trouble when applied to a white person voting for Romney because he understands whiteness better. Ron Christie, a Black conservative who worked for former President George W. Bush, finds both sides of that coin unacceptable.
"It's not the vision that our leaders in the civil rights movement would have envisioned and be proud of in the era of the first African-American president," Christie said.
Martin Luther King Jr. fought Jim Crow laws, which deprived Blacks of political rights after Reconstruction, upheld by Southern Democrats. But Black voters switched after Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed through the 1960s civil rights legislation and Republicans successfully pursued the votes of white people who disliked the civil rights agenda.
Since then, Democrats have persistently wooed Black voters with programs and platforms that African-Americans favor, and the party has been rewarded every four years.
Clinton got 83 percent of the Black vote in 1992 and 84 percent in 1996; the third-party candidate Ross Perot probably sliced away some of Clinton's Black support. Al Gore got 90 percent in 2000; John Kerry got 88 percent in 2004. Obama captured 95 percent in 2008, and 2 million more Black people voted than in the previous election.
Christie says he, too, shares the sense of pride in Obama smashing what for Blacks is the ultimate glass ceiling. He understands that Black pride springs from a shared history of being treated as less than human, while the history of pride in whiteness has a racist context.
But he still sees Black people voting for Obama out of a "straitjacket solidarity."
Christie sees it in his barbershop, where Black men shifted from calling candidate Obama "half-white" and "not one of us" to demanding that Christie stop opposing the first Black president.
He sees it in the comments of radio host Tom Joyner, who told his millions of listeners a year ago, "Let's not even deal with facts right now. Let's deal with our Blackness and pride — and loyalty. . I'm not afraid or ashamed to say that as Black people, we should do it because he's a Black man."
The actor Samuel L. Jackson said much the same thing: "I voted for Barack because he was Black," he told Ebony magazine. "Cuz that's why other folks vote for other people — because they look like them."
In 2011, as Black unemployment continued to rise, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus said that if Clinton was still president, "we probably would be still marching on the White House . (but) nobody wants to do anything that would empower the people who hate the president."
And just last week, the rapper Snoop Dogg posted a list of voting reasons, written by someone else, on a social media account. No. 1 on his pro-Obama list: He's Black. Snoop's top reason to not vote for Romney: He's white.
All of this may help explain why Veronica Scott-Miller, a junior at historically Black Hampton University, directed the following tweet at Dash: "You get a lil money and you forget that you're Black and a woman. Two things Romney hates."
In an interview, Scott-Miller said the GOP fought Obama's effort to provide funding for historically Black colleges like hers. She dislikes Romney's opposition to abortion and thinks Republicans have a "negative stigma about us . they make generalizations in their speeches about our race in general, and they make up terms like welfare queens and stuff."
Told that some saw her tweet as racist, she said that's not what she meant. "I was saying that as a Black woman, Romney doesn't have that much that would make us want to vote for him," said Scott-Miller, who is Black. "Because Barack Obama lives with three Black women in his house, he knows about what they need, he knows about the issues we may be facing, he talks to Black women on the regular."
Sherrilyn Ifill, a law professor at the University of Maryland, wrote a column last week exploring why so many Black voters are rejecting Romney. She said it has less to do with the candidate than with his party's treatment of Obama, such as John Sununu calling the president "lazy" after the debate, a congressman shouting "You lie!" during the State of the Union address, claims that Obama is not a citizen and more.
In an interview, Ifill said that for Black voters, such accusations feel like white people are attacking their own dignity. "In essence," she says, "they are closing ranks around Obama."
She noted that women were justifiably moved by Hillary Rodham Clinton's candidacy and Catholics flocked to the polls to elect President John F. Kennedy. Comparing Black pride in Obama to white pride in Romney is a "false symmetry" because of the history of Black oppression, she says, and she asked for patience from America at large.
"There should not be this resistance to pride over the first Black president," Ifill says. "If we get to the fifth one, I'll be with you." -- (AP)
TAMPA — It’s hard to tell who had a looser grip on reality as the Republican National Convention wrapped up — Clint Eastwood or Mitt Romney’s spin doctors.
Who thought it would be a brilliant idea to put the “Dirty Harry” star, his hair reminiscent of the wild-eyed scientist from “Back to the Future,” on live TV without notes? As much as it pains some of President Barack Obama’s critics to acknowledge it, sometimes a TelePrompTer is a good idea.
I’ll give Eastwood a break, but there’s no excuse for the fantasies repeated by myth-building politicians like the evening’s star speaker, presidential nominee Mitt Romney, even after nonpartisan media fact checkers have found the statements to be untrue.
For example, Romney grandly promised, “I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour.” Ah, there goes “apology tour” again. The line lives in Republican stump speeches, despite having won “four Pinocchios” months ago from the Washington Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler, among others.
In fact, the president never has apologized for anything on his foreign trips, although previous presidents have. George W. Bush, for example, in a news conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah apologized for the humiliation suffered by Iraqi prisoners. But apologies were not such a big issue then.
Both parties spin some whoppers, of course. But the most significant quote of the week, in my view, came from Romney pollster Neil Newhouse at an ABC News/Yahoo panel in Tampa. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” he said, because fact checkers bring their own “thoughts and beliefs” to the process.
He was speaking about the Romney ad and stump speech lines that attack Obama’s welfare waiver process, an attack that a variety of media fact-checkers have found to be bogus.
Funny thing, but I thought the credibility of a fact-checker should be judged by the accuracy of their fact-checking, not on what we think might be going on in their heads at the time. Newhouse, I believe, is blurring the line between spin and outright lies.
Spin, by its nature, is a view of reality that depends on the eye of the beholder. Lies are a willfully false reconstruction of reality.
When the welfare ad, for example, says the Obama administration has ended the work requirement in the landmark 1996 welfare reform law, that’s simply false. The administration is offering states a chance to apply for more flexibility in determining their own work requirements, if they agree to actually raise the number of people thy move from welfare to work.
Critics argue that states might weaken the work requirements by assigning activities that are not really “work.” But that arguable possibility, which always has been present and deserves sensible monitoring, does not change the reality that Obama has not ended the work requirement.
Yet, fact-checkers could hardly catch up with that remark before Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, unleashed a few more fibs and convenient omissions in his own convention speech.
For example, he had the audacity to poke at the “$716 billion funneled out of Medicare by President Obama” without noting that his own past budget plans counted on the very same savings. The same one-sided charge that Obama “raids” Medicare to pay for “Obamacare” appears in Romney campaign ads, too.
I’m sure the Democrats will have plenty more to say about such omissions and other matters in the weeks to come, just as Republicans will attack shadings of truth from the left. But the pushback by the Romney campaign sounds like they’re unveiling a new morality: In some minds, you don’t need facts when you have SuperPACs.
It is against such Machiavellian cynicism that independent fact-checking has become a healthy and necessary development in today’s information explosion. Fact-checkers give voters a little more of a fighting chance against the well-funded propaganda wars waged by both political sides.
Sure, both sides shade the truth. But that means we, the voters, should be more watchful, not less. After all, if you can’t trust a campaign to tell you the truth in their speeches and ads, do you really want to trust them with your Medicare?
WEST CHESTER, Ohio — Down to a fierce finish, President Barack Obama accused Mitt Romney of scaring voters with lies on Friday, while the Republican challenger warned grimly of political paralysis and another recession if Obama reclaims the White House. Heading into the final weekend, the race's last big report on the economy showed hiring picking up but millions still out of work.
"Four more days!" Romney supporters bellowed at a rally in Wisconsin. "Four more years!" Obama backers shouted as the president campaigned in Ohio.
With Ohio at the center of it all, the candidates sharpened their closing lines, both clutching to the mainstream middle while lashing out at one another. Virtually all of the nine homestretch battleground states were getting personal attention from the contenders or top members of their teams, and Romney was pressing hard to add Pennsylvania to the last-minute mix.
Romney drew the largest crowd of his years-long quest for the presidency at an Ohio rally attended by 18,000 people on a cold Friday night.
"We're almost home," a confident Romney, surrounded by family and more than a dozen Republican officials, told a sea of supporters. "One final push will get us there."
Urgency could be felt all across the campaign, from the big and boisterous crowds to the running count that roughly 24 million people already have voted. Outside the White House, workers were setting the foundation for the inaugural viewing stand for Jan. 20. Lawyers from both camps girded for a fight should the election end up too close to call.
Obama, for the first time, personally assailed Romney over ads suggesting that automakers General Motors and Chrysler are adding jobs in China at the expense of auto-industry dependent Ohio. Both companies have called the ads untrue. The matter is sensitive in Ohio, perhaps the linchpin state of the election.
"I know we're close to an election, but this isn't a game," Obama said from Hilliard, Ohio, a heavily Republican suburb of the capital city of Columbus. "These are people's jobs. These are people's lives. ... You don't scare hardworking Americans just to scare up some votes."
For once, the intensely scrutinized monthly jobs report seemed overshadowed by the pace of the presidential race. It was unlikely to affect the outcome.
Employers added a better-than-expected 171,000 jobs in October, underscoring that the economy is improving. But the rate is still short of what will be needed to seriously shrink unemployment. The jobless rate ticked up to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent — mainly because more people jumped back into the search for work.
No issue matters more to voters than the economy, the centerpiece of a Romney message called the closing case of his campaign.
He said an Obama presidency would mean more broken relations with Congress, showdowns over government shutdowns, a chilling effect on the economy and perhaps "another recession."
"He has never led, never worked across the aisle, never truly understood how jobs are created in the economy," said Romney, a former private equity firm executive, in a campaign stop in Wisconsin.
Later in Ohio, he declared: "I will not represent one party. I will represent one nation."
Democrats sought to kick the legs out of Romney's late-campaign theme of bipartisanship.
"Mitt Romney's fantasy that Senate Democrats will work with him to pass his 'severely conservative' agenda is laughable," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Obama claimed he loved working with Republicans — when they agreed with him. His tone was scrappy.
"I don't get tired," he said in the longest days of the campaign. When Romney's name drew boos, Obama blurted out: "Vote! Voting is the best revenge."
While the politics intensified, real-life misery played out in the Northeast.
The death toll and anger kept climbing in the aftermath of the massive storm Sandy. Millions were without power, and many drivers could find no gasoline.
Obama noted at the top of his campaign speeches that he was still commanding the federal storm response. He also managed to tie it to the theme of his political bid. "We rise or fall as one nation and as one people," he said, before launching directly to the economic recovery under his watch.
Polling shows the race remains a legitimate toss-up heading into the final days. But Romney still has the tougher path to victory because he must win more of the nine most-contested states to reach 270 electoral votes: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire.
The dash for cash continued to the end. A fundraising email under Romney's name asked for money to expand operations into other states and "redefine the landscape of this election." An Obama fundraising pitch said final decisions were being made Saturday on where to direct the last campaign money. "It's not too late," it said.
Romney was making a late, concerted push into Pennsylvania, drawing jeers from Obama aides who called it desperation. Obama won the state comfortably in 2008. Romney appeared intent on another path to the presidency should he lose Ohio.
His foray into Pennsylvania is not folly. Unlike states that emphasize early voting, Pennsylvania will see most votes cast on Election Day. The state has not been saturated with political advertising, giving Romney and his supporting groups — still flush with cash — an opportunity to sway last-minute voters with a barrage of commercials. Obama is countering by buying commercial time in the state as well and is sending former President Bill Clinton to campaign Monday in Pittsburgh, Scranton and the Philadelphia area.
The candidates' wives and running mates fanned out to the South, Midwest and West to cover more ground.
"Here's what it comes down to: We can't afford to wait four more years for real change to get us on the right track," said the Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, rallying for votes in Montrose, Colo. "We only need to wait four more days."
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden drew roaring support in Beloit, Wis., in a middle school near Ryan's hometown.
Obama reached beyond the big cities of Ohio before heading back to the White House. Romney was headed into the weekend with a kickoff event for the finish, joining up with his running mate and their wives. -- (AP)
Right on the heels of North Carolina becoming the 31st state in the Union to pass a ban on homosexual marriage, President Barack Obama announced his support of matrimony between same sex couples.
The president’s public support of same sex marriage could either be a boon or a curse for his re-election campaign; it’s too soon to tell, despite the fact that he’s just received a million dollars in campaign contributions. But one thing is certain; the president’s public stance in favor of homosexual marriage has drawn a dividing line among voters. Will it have an affect among African-American voters, some members of the Black clergy think it will.
“I think it will to some extent,” said Bishop Ernest C. Morris Sr., Jurisdictional Prelate for Koinonia Jurisdiction. “A large percentage of Black Christians believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman. What he may be banking on is the African-American community’s love for the first Black president but he should consider that large numbers of Black churches won’t agree with this. There are too many passages in Scripture that denounce homosexuality and I can’t see how to fully justify it from the Word of God. Don’t misunderstand me; this is not about hatred of homosexuals because we are all sinners in need of a savior and God is so gracious. It is the continuous practice of this that the Bible is against. I also think that as the nation’s first Black president, he’s seen not just as the political leader of our country but as more than that. Many people see him as a moral and spiritual leader as well.”
On Wednesday May 9 President Barack Obama took what some political experts are saying was a risky move — especially during an election year — and voiced his support of same sex marriage. Like the issue of legalized abortion, same sex marriage is one of those hot button issues that draw a clear division between those who support it and those who oppose it. Republican presidential front runner Mitt Romney said he opposes same sex marriages.
“Well when these issues were raised in my state of Massachusetts, I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name,” Romney said in a published report.
A bill that would have allowed civil unions for same-sex couples in Colorado died in the legislature this week. The president’s public endorsement of homosexual marriage followed a vote in North Carolina where constituents came out in favor of a ban against same sex marriage. North Carolina is now America’s 31st state to enact legislation against it.
In a prepared statement, the president said he was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer regarding same sex marriage.
“I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry,” the president said. “I’ve always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. I was reluctant to use the term marriage because of the very powerful traditions it evokes. And I thought civil union laws that conferred legal rights upon gay and lesbian couples were a solution. But over the course of several years I’ve talked to friends and family about this. I’ve thought about members of my staff in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships that are raising kids together. What I’ve come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, and the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens. So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.”
The president also said that he respected the beliefs of others and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines but he said that he believed that in the eyes of the law all Americans should ne treated equally and no federal law should invalidate same sex marriages in a state that enacted it.
Reverend Clarence James, a Black minister based in Chicago said he definitely believes the president’s move is going to hurt him among African-American voters, many of whom oppose same sex marriage.
“Many of us oppose this in every form and may decide to vote against the president because of this,” James said. “From a medical and psychological point of view homosexuality is a mental illness; for male homosexuals anal sex is medically dangerous. The president is coming at this as a civil rights issue but there is no correlation even though the homosexual community is trying to make it one. The Civil Rights Movement was about freedom and equal rights, this is a moral issue. For the president and other elected officials it’s easier to go along with popular opinion rather than to do what’s right.”
But some members of the African-American clergy have a different point of view regarding this issue. They believe the African-American community should find ways to address same sex relationships and that there can be reconciliation between sex and spirituality.
“If every gay person in our church just left or those who have an orientation or preference or an inclination, or a fantasy, if everyone left, we wouldn’t have — we wouldn’t have a church,” said Bishop Carlton Pearson who heads Chicago’s New Dimensions Ministries in a published report. “Homophobia is hardly unique to the African-American community. It’s a social malady that’s due largely to the influence of fear based-theologies, particularly fundamentalist Christianity, Islam and Judaism, all of which grow out of the Abrahamic tradition. The African-American church has traditionally used a kind of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ approach toward homosexuality.”
Dr. Janice Hollis who heads Progressive Believer’s said the African-American community should look at the president’s record not just on this issue but on others and determine if the quality of their lives has improved.
“I think it’s an insult for the president to intellectualize on morality as if the Church doesn’t already have a mandate from God on this,” she said. “This is a political move and even though he may not see it, he’s only a fleeting moment in history; God has always been there. I think the president is promoting a way of life that deters people away from the Word of God.”
Reverend Bill Owens, a minister with the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and who is based in Memphis, Tennessee, said there’s no doubt that the president’s endorsement of same sex marriage is going to hurt him among Black voters.
“Absolutely it will and especially among the Black churches where the conviction against same sex marriage is so strong,” Owens said. “I think many Black Christians feel somewhat betrayed by the president on this — this is something that Black churches have always stood firmly against.”
Mormon Church on the spot as Romney gains momentum
As Mitt Romney gets closer and closer to the Republican presidential nomination, many are starting to ask how his candidacy will play out with African-Americans, particularly as it relates to matters of faith.
Until 1978, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), of which Romney is a member and former bishop, or lay pastor, banned men of African descent from its priesthood, and barred black men and women from sacred temple ceremonies that promised access in the afterlife to the highest heaven.
The LDS church has neither formally apologized for the priesthood ban, nor publicly repudiated many of the theories used to justify it for more than 125 years.
“I think the question you're asking is one that many are currently addressing,” said Rosemary Avance, a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication. “Romney's run for office has brought a lot of the Church's history out in the open for public scrutiny, and the race issue is no exception. I think you'll find that members of the Church are themselves just beginning to address some of these historical issues.”
This history is a long one, stretching back to the inception of the church of the 1830s. Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of Mormonism, ran for president in 1844 as a moderate abolitionist; ordained a Black man, Elijah Abel; and offered to adopt one young black convert, Jane Manning James, as his spiritual daughter.
Yet earlier in his life, Smith wrote anti-abolitionist screeds replete with racist sentiment typical of Christian pro-slavery apologists of antebellum America. In one 1836 letter to missionaries in the South, Smith excoriated northern abolitionists as the instigators of discord among southern slaves who, he argued, were generally happy.
Other figures early in the Church’s history illustrated such prejudices as well. The Mormon prophet Brigham Young stated in 1852, “Any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain] … in him cannot hold the priesthood.” Up until the mid-twentieth-century, some prophets perpetuated the idea that Blacks were spiritually inferior, the permanently cursed descendants of Ham and Cain (a myth once popular in many American churches).
In 1931, Church President Joseph Fielding Smith, the great-nephew of Joseph Smith Jr., wrote a widely distributed treatise — still available on Kindle — asserting that Blacks were “fence-sitters” during a pre-mortal battle between God and Lucifer. When they were sent to Earth, according to Fielding Smith, Blacks were marked with darkened skin as a permanent reminder of their perfidy.
According to Christiandefense.org, LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed on them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God, and his murder of Abel being a black skin. . . . Noah's son married Egyptus, a descendant of Cain, thus preserving the negro lineage through the flood. ... the negro are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned. ... " (Mormon Doctrine, 527-28; 1966 orig. ed., changed in the current ed.; emphasis added).
Black Mormons say the church's silence not only irks many African-Americans, it could also become a loud distraction for the nation's most prominent Mormon: Romney.
"Right now is a great opportunity for the church to say, 'Let's clear the air once and for all,'" said Darron Smith, co-editor of the book "Black and Mormon" and a sociologist at Wichita State University in Kansas to Religion News Service.
"But they won't do it. And that's going to put reasonable doubt in people's minds about Romney and the church."
The LDS church is mounting a multimillion-dollar campaign to highlight its growing diversity. In billboards, online ads and TV commercials, Latinos, Asians and African-Americans alike assert, "I'm a Mormon."
But the church remains overwhelmingly white. A recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that Blacks comprise just 1 percent of the nearly 6 million Mormons in the U.S.
LDS church spokesman Michael Purdy said Mormonism is growing in Africa and in racially diverse communities in the U.S. and Latin America.
God rejects "none who come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female," Purdy said in a statement, quoting The Book of Mormon. "Just as God loves all of his children, wants what is best for them, and considers them as equals, so does the church," he added.
But many Blacks perceive the LDS church as racist. Recently an African-American pastor in Florida who supports Rick Santorum’s campaign raised the racial charge.
"Blacks are not going to vote for anyone of the Mormon faith," the Rev. O'Neal Dozier told The Palm Beach Post on Jan. 22. "The Book of Mormon says the Negro skin is cursed."
In actuality, the Book of Mormon says no such thing. But another Mormon scripture, The Pearl of Great Price, does say, "blackness came upon" Cain's descendants, who were "despised among all people."
Among Cain's heirs was Noah's son, Ham, who was "cursed … as pertaining to the priesthood," according to the scripture. Mormons trace their priesthood to Adam and Noah.
Questions about Mormonism's racial history also arose during Romney's first White House run.
In a 2007 Meet the Press interview, Tim Russert noted that Romney was 31 when the priesthood ban was lifted in 1978. "Didn't you think, 'What am I doing part of an organization that is viewed by many as a racist organization?'" Russert asked.
"I'm very proud of my faith, and it's the faith of my fathers," Romney answered. "And I'm not going to distance myself from my faith in any way."
But Romney also said that he had been "anxious to see a change in my church" and recalled weeping when he heard that the ban had been lifted.
"Even at this day it's emotional, and so it's very deep and fundamental in my life and my most core beliefs that all people are children of God," Romney said.
Pressed by Russert, Romney refused to say his church was wrong to restrict Blacks from full participation.
Romney's forebears were among the original Mormon converts in the 1830s, and Romney himself was a bishop in the church before he entered politics in 1994.
Romney's father, George Romney, also faced criticism over the priesthood ban when he ran for president in 1968. He answered by extolling his civil rights record as governor of Michigan.
George Romney, like his son, refused to publicly criticize his church.
"The issue hurt him, and it hurt the image of Mormon church," Newell Bringhurst, a historian and co-author of “The Mormon Quest for the Presidency”, told USA Today.
It may mar Mitt Romney's campaign too, Bringhurst said. "He'll face more and more scrutiny on the Mormon-Black issue, even though the church has abandoned the policy."
According to Purdy, leaders started looking for divine guidance about the Black ban in the 1970s. In 1978, he said, "a revelation to the church's prophet extended the blessings of the priesthood to all worthy members."
"It was a day of great rejoicing in the church," Purdy said.
But the 1978 statement did not address the theological background behind the ban.
In 1949, the LDS church's First Presidency — the top tier of its hierarchy — had said the priesthood ban was a "direct commandment from the Lord." And LDS leaders regarded as prophets taught that black skin was punishment for souls that lacked valor in a pre-earthly existence.
"Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications," Purdy said. "These previous personal statements do not represent church doctrine."
But even prophets' personal statements are taken as holy writ, and theories about Blacks being cursed or spiritually lacking circulated among Mormons well after the ban was lifted.
Even under intense pressure from Black Mormons, the church has refused to formally repudiate past interpretations of doctrine or scripture that tie spiritual worthiness to race.
"If the LDS church were to apologize, that would be casting aspersions on God's prophets — the voice of God on earth," said Richard Ostling, co-author of the book “Mormon America.”
"I don't think the Mormon soul could countenance it."
The New Republic and Religion News Service contributed to this report.
Zack Burgess is the Enterprise Writer for The Tribune. He is a freelance writer and editor who covers culture, politics and sports. He can be contacted at zackburgess.com.