The president pushed for repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that barred gays from serving openly in the military and endorsed same-sex marriage; he helped push through fair pay for women; he supported the DREAM Act, which provided a path to citizenship for young adults in the U.S. illegally; he said his administration would stop deporting young illegal immigrants who entered the country as children provided they meet certain requirements.
Given that an overwhelming number of African-Americans consistently support Obama, some have openly wondered if the nation’s first African-American president is taking them for granted. And if he is, is that a risk he can afford to take.
The answer appears to be yes.
Obama won 95% of the black vote in 2008, and polls show he enjoys 87% support among black registered voters versus 5% for Republican rival Mitt Romney.
“Well, I think, he can afford to take black voters for granted,” said Fredrick Harris, a professor of political science at Columbia University and director of its Institute for Research in African-American Studies. “No other constituency gives that large a percentage of its vote to the Democratic Party,” Harris said, adding that blacks have earned a place as the Democrats’ “most loyal constituency.”
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said, “I can certainly tell you that from a practical, political standpoint, [President Obama] probably could afford to take it for granted because once again, he’s going to get well over 90% of the African-American vote.”
Obama supporters have long tried to extinguish the lingering question, pointing to the president’s policies that have bode well for blacks.
But recent events have reignited it.
On Wednesday, Romney appeared to tweak the president’s absence from one of the most high-profile gathering of blacks this election year, the Houston convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.
“We have to make our case to every voter,” Romney said. “We don’t count anybody out, and we sure don’t make a habit of presuming anyone’s support. Support is asked for and earned, and that’s why I’m here today.”
Romney’s campaign was even more blunt.
Before Romney’s appearance, adviser Tara Wall — herself an African-American — said in a statement: “If elected by a majority this November, President Romney will be a leader to all. Speaking to members of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization and establishing a dialogue with black voters, communicating his record of achievement and solutions for fixing a broken system of unfulfilled promises is paramount.
“Unlike President Obama, he will not take any vote for granted.”
Unwilling to let that pass, the Obama campaign promptly responded.
“President Obama does not take a single vote or support from any community for granted,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Clo Ewing wrote in a statement.
The president spoke to the convention in a prerecorded message preceding Vice President Joe Biden’s keynote address on Thursday. Obama last appeared before the group in 2009.
The backstory behind the president’s non-appearance at the NAACP convention has even left some wondering.
NAACP organizers invited the president to speak and believed the deal was sealed. So much so they advertised the president as a guest speaker. But the Obama campaign cited a “scheduling conflict” and said the president would be unable to attend.
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