Friday, June 6, 2008

A Look at Potential African American Turnout in the South

Now the Democratic nominee is certain. Obama as the first African American to be on a major party ticket will be taking on John McCain. The map will be different this year than in 2004. McCain will try to snatch Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Minniesota and New Jersey from the Democrats. Obama will try to take Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia from the Republicans. We believe that Obama will have more oppurtunities in the South than just Virginia. There has been talk about other states in the South being competitive but the pundits say there are simply not enough African Americans. We do believe that Obama can create a massive turnout and some unenthusiastic evangelicals might not come out and vote.
A few really moderate ones may be inclined to go to Obama if Ted Strickland who is a former minister is on the ticket. Now here is the math to see how many African Americans Obama could get to the polls.
Mississippi has almost 1.1 million African American who voted 90%-10% for Kerry against Bush. About 1.1 million people voted in that election and of those voters, around 380,000 of those voters were African American. 1/3 of the population of Mississippi is under 18 but we do not know the percentage for African Americans. We do estimate that about 300,000 African Americans elligable to vote did not cast ballots. Bush won Mississippi by about 167,000 votes. This does not exactly mean that half of the African Americans who did not vote in 2004 in Mississippi need to vote. Obama will probably win African Americans 95%-5% which will already make his percent of the vote go up at least one point. As we pointed out earlier, many evangelicals are not enthused by McCain and they made up 48% of the voters in 2004. Then some of them hate Obama because of his race. So Obama in order to win Mississippi would have to increase African American turnout by a bit under 50% It is not impossible because that turnout happened in some parts of the Mississippi 1st district during the special election. The reason is that the Republican candidate, Greg Davis tried to tie the Democrat, Travis Childers to Barack Obama. A recent Rasmussen poll showed McCain leading in Mississippi by 6 points. Obama definitely should try hard to win Mississippi.
Even though Mississippi definitely should not be overlooked, it only has 6 electoral votes. Obama should try harder to win a bigger state such as North Carolina with 15 electoral votes. There are 1.9 million African Americans there and they are 22% of the population. In 2004, 900,000 African Americans in North Carolina voted for president and Kerry won them 85%-14%. We believe that there are between 400,000 and 500,000 African Americans who did not vote in 2004. Bush won North Carolina by 436,000 votes but this does not mean Obama needs to get 436,000 more African Americans out than in 2004. Obama will probably win African Americans 95%-5% making his percent of the vote go up 2 points even without the massive turnout. Then North Carolina has Durham with Duke University and the research triangle with well educated whites which has been a strength of Obama's in the primaries. It seems that after we include the turnout in the Durham area along with the drop in the evangelical turnout, Obama will need a bit more than 200,000 African Americans who did not vote in 2004 to vote in 2008. This is not impossible and the RCP poll average shows McCain with a lead of only three points.
Obama has a better shot at winning North Carolina than Georgia and he especially would if he put Edwards on the ticket. Georgia definitely should not be overlooked, it has 15 electoral votes and African Americans are 30% of the population. They cast 25% of the votes in 2004 and Kerry won them 88%-12% They cast over 800,000 votes out of the population of about 2.7 million. A bit under one million of the African Americans are children. That means about 900,000 African Americans elligible to vote didn't. Bush won Georgia in 2004 by 558,000 votes. The evangelicals who do not like McCain may vote for Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate for president who is from Georgia. We need to see how prominent Bob Barr becomes. If he does not become prominent, Obama will need 400,000 to 450,000 more African American voters to win Georgia. If Bob Barr does become prominent we estimate the winning number should over 200,000 African Americans. This is certainly possible for Obama.
Virginia and its 13 electoral votes is the state that Obama has the best chance of winning in the South. Yes, we believe Obama has a better chance here than in Florida. Virginia has about 1.5 million African Americans that are 20% of the population. The African American voting bloc here is not as influential here as in the other states we were talking about. In the 2004 presidential election, a bit over 600,000 African Americans voted and Kerry won them 87%-12% This means about 400,000 elligable African American voters did not vote in 2004. Bush won Virginia by 262,000 votes but this does not mean that Obama will have to get a bit over 200,000 African Americans who did not vote to the polls even counting the evangelicals who won't vote. McCain will probably get a boost of turnout from the military community but it might not be as stronlgy for McCain if Jim Webb is on the ticket. Then there is Northern Virginia which has been trending to the Democrats in recent years so Obama needs to do very well there. The way it looks is that Obama will need about 150,0000 more African Americans in 2004 to vote in the general. These factors make Virginia the most competitive state in the South. The RCP poll average has McCain up by only 1.3 points.
We could go on and on about other states in the South but we do not believe there are enough African Americans in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee to tilt the state to Obama. Louisiana may be competitive but we do not think there are enough African Americans and South Carolina has some retirement communities where McCain could do very well. We will have another post soon about how African American turnout can affect the traditional battleground states.
If you have any thoughts on this post, please feel free to comment it.

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