February 28th, 2007

Now for the Counter-Counter Intuitive: Obama Running Strong with Black Voters

by Philip Baruth

Nothing makes as satisfying a pop as the conventional wisdom being punctured. Take Barack Obama. The mainstream press loves the idea that Obama is wildly popular across America — everywhere, that is, except the households of African-American voters.

obama II, 2/10/07

Why? Difficult to say, but here are a few scattered guesses. It allows quickly generated news shows to present truisms about race as sage wisdom (”one thing is certain: Obama cannot take black voters for granted”); it allows them to stage a generational spat, established black activists against the fresh face; to question Obama’s authenticity; and finally to “balance” their coverage, by pointing out in the mid-section of such stories that Hillary Clinton currently seems to enjoy more support in the African-American community (”And she’s a white candidate. That’s irony for you. Back to you in Situation Room, Wolf.”)

But what a difference two weeks makes.

Following Obama’s announcement on February 10, attitudes have apparently shifted dramatically. Here’s the key nugget from the Post poll, under the heading “Blacks Shift to Obama, Poll Finds”:

In December and January Post-ABC News polls, Clinton led Obama among African Americans by 60 percent to 20 percent. In the new poll, Obama held a narrow advantage among blacks, 44 percent to 33 percent. The shift came despite four in five blacks having a favorable impression of the New York senator.

Interesting. And you don’t have to do much math to figure out what these figures project over the next six months. You guessed it: an intensification of the Clinton campaign’s “Deploy Bubba” strategy.

God, how VDB loves this race. And it’s only February 2007.


Late Update, March 1, 8:26 am:

Hold the phone! Apparently the MSM isn’t going to let go of the “Blacks Suspicious of Obama” meme that easily. CNN puts these seemingly dramatic new numbers in a more comfortable light. Speaking of the Post poll, Candy Crowley writes:

obama, 2/10/07That change represents a stunning 24-point swing, but does it mean the black community has embraced the Illinois Democrat as its candidate?

Not exactly.

“Obama does have a plurality of black voters right now. He doesn’t have a majority yet,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “That means a majority of blacks still aren’t sure about him.”

Ah, now it all comes into focus. It isn’t enough to register a 24-point swing in the African-American vote; not enough to lead a woman with near-100% name recognition in that crucial Democratic demographic. No, only a majority of the black vote will count as significant.

And of course, when Obama’s support in the African-American community tops 50%, as it almost certainly will, analysts will pivot and point out that nearly half of black voters prefer a candidate other than Obama.

And so on.

If Obama eventually tallies 75% support in the African American community, and Hillary Clinton 25%, more than a few voices in the media will continue to figure this as a measure of Hillary’s solid strength among black Americans.

And they will be right. Both Clintons enjoy broad-based support in that demographic, and for good reason.

But that’s beside the point: the point is that the media seems extremely reluctant to give up the idea that the average black American views Obama with suspicion. They like dividing him, in their coverage, from “real” African-Americans.

And that’s not only a bit creepy, it’s a lot silly.