How Obama won: A Q&A with Obama pollster Cornell Belcher

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Cornell Belcher

Obama Pollster Cornell Belcher (Photo provided by Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies)

Why didn’t these voters show up in 2010?

Because like I said in my last memo to then DNC Chairman (Howard) Dean at the close of the 08 cycle, they are Obama voters, not necessarily Democratic voters and the party has to understand the difference.  We have to work to bring them solidly into the party as reliable Democrats. Look about 11% of the electorate was new voters in 08; people who had made a rationale decision, from their point of view, about not voting.  There was something about Obama and the movement that he created which made them believe in politics as a viable vehicle for change/ things to get better.  In many instances they didn’t even understand the ramifications of the midterm elections or that they needed to have Obama’s back in this fight to change the country.

How can you get them to show up in 2014?

I have a feeling the majority of my work life along with many others will be dedicated to that question for the next two years – but I like our odds.

Any new messages that the campaign used for black voters this time you didn’t in 2008?

Well look, the entire “have Obama’s back” messaging campaign was new and frankly edgy and outside the box for a conventional presidential campaign but it was an important rallying cry that merged aspiration with determination in a really unique way that spoke to diverse and younger voters in a culturally important way.

Do you have any real evidence that black turnout was increased by voter ID laws?

No I don’t, but frankly haven’t really been looking for it.  And look, that aside the Obama campaign spent an unprecedented amount of time, resources and effort building a strategy and carrying out a plan to inform, mobilize and organize our base electorate.  That wasn’t about what Republicans were or weren’t doing, it was about a campaign that put together a really good plan and executed that plan.  Give the Obama campaign its props for executing a really good plan.

Was there any evidence the laws hurt black turnout anywhere?

If it did, it certainly didn’t do so in battleground states where the campaign engaged the electorate.