African-Americans voted in historic numbers for President Obama in 2008. Black women voted in higher proportions than any other voting bloc, and African-American turnout was almost equivalent to that of whites, as about 65 percent of voting-eligible blacks cast ballots.
But that meant more than eight million African-Americans who could vote didn’t in 2008. This number was lower than in 2004, and much much lower than the tens of millions of white Americans who didn’t vote. But if the Obama campaign could somehow turn out those voters in 2012, it would make a huge difference: Obama defeated John McCain by about 10 million votes in 2008, so eight million is a very significant number, even if many of them don’t live in key swing states.
Obama campaign aides won’t discuss their voting target numbers. And they privately say it’s likely the president will have a small drop in the number of black votes, in part because of the high unemployment among African-American men under age 30.
Curtis Gans, a voting expert and director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University, agreed with his view. In an interview, he predicted the black vote would be close to what Obama received in 2008, but the president would likely see a sizable drop-off in voters all of races between ages 18-29, as many of them have not been as excited by the president’s tenure as they had hoped.
But the potential still remains. Obama won North Carolina by 14,177 votes in 2008, but estimates suggest more than 200,000 blacks in the state are not registered to vote. (RELATED: the GRIO’S look at the politics of the Tar Heel state and a piece on its recent passage of gay marriage ban.)
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr