FROM THE FLORIDA COURIER STAFF
The Obama for America campaign justified its Florida campaign strategy in writing after questions were raised by Florida Courier Staff Writer James Harper during a press conference with President Obama’s top national re-election campaign strategists as to whether the Black vote is being taken for granted.
The campaign’s justification comes in the face of Florida Department of Election statistics, verified by the Florida Courier, showing that new voter registrations for Black Floridians fell by more than 80 percent between October 2008 and August 2012, when compared to the four years before the 2008 presidential election.
When registration closed in October 2008, approximately 245,000 new Black voters had been added to Florida’s rolls. As of August 2012 – the latest statistics available from the state – only about 51,000 new Black voters have been added.
Harper participated in a press conference call on Oct. 11, which included Obama for America (OFA) Campaign Manager Jim Messina and National Press Secretary Ben Labolt, and National Field Director Jeremy Bird.
“The purpose of this call is the voter registration/early vote efforts,” said Messina, according to a transcript of the call.
“… I’m a data-driven guy…The numbers that mean something to me: registered voters, ballots requested and early votes cast…We’ve never stopped growing the grassroots campaign that we revolutionized back in 2007 and 2008. And that grassroots campaign is a strategic advantage for us in the last days of this campaign.”
In his report, Bird focused on voter registration and early voting results.
“I think there are some real telling numbers…if you look at our voter registration drive over the last several months,” Bird reported. “The first is Democrats, in party registration, lead Republicans in nearly every battleground state. Democrats have out-registered Republicans in every single battleground state for the past three months.”
OFA identifies “battleground states” as Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
“Latino voter registration has greatly exceeded registration for non-Latino Whites,” continued Bird. “…Perhaps most strikingly, most new registrants are younger than 30 and, in fact, more than four in five new registrants in these battleground states are women, young people and minorities.”
What about Blacks?
When the call was opened up for questions, reporter Harper immediately jumped in – then was cut off.
After asking a question about the first presidential debate, Harper said, “I notice in your statistics that you are really focusing on Latinos… the Daytona Times… as well as the Florida Courier, are members of the Black press, so we are curious as to why the focus on Latinos. It seems like he’s (Bird) lumped Blacks into the minority group and you’ve reached out to women, to gays, to Latinos, and it appears you have been taking the Black vote for granted.
“So I am curious as to if the president will be doing more to specifically reach out for the Black vote…Early voting starts on October 28th and Black churches are organizing to go to the polls on Sunday, the 28th…”
Then Labolt jumped in: “Alright, we have to cut you off there because we have a lot of questions to get in…” Then after answering Harper’s first question, he turned the call over to Bird.
“Of all new registrants in Florida, 83 percent…are either women under the age of 30, African-American, or Latino. I talked specifically about the Latino vote in part because the growth has been extremely large in the Latino community in terms of new registrants, but obviously we’ve seen growth in the African-American community as well,” Bird said.
“We have an incredible group of neighborhood team leaders and neighborhood teams working both on the registration front and, for all of those folks that are already registered, the GOTV (get out the vote) front in the African-American community. And it’s not just voter contact, it’s not just the phones, it’s not just the doors, it’s our barbershop and beauty salon program, it’s our faith program where we have congregational captains working with their congregations. It’s African-American vote directors in all of our battleground states.
“So we take the African-American vote very seriously, we’ve been committed to it for years, as we’re committed to our organizing program in the Latino community, on college campuses and with youth, in rural areas, in suburban areas, and in the cities.”
OFA defends campaign
Five days after the conference call, OFA Florida State Director Ashley Walker distributed a memo stating that “the African-American and Caribbean-American registered voter population increased by more than 50,000” in 2012 – purportedly due to OFA’s efforts in Florida. That’s well below the 245,000 additional new Black voters registered between 2004 and 2008.
Walker’s memo also states that OFA opened 103 offices in the state, and more than 20,000 people completed required voter registration training before they could register voters. That means that each trained volunteer may have registered an average of less than three Black Floridians to vote.