After Clinton's Lackluster 2016, Biden Campaign Works To Try To Boost NC Turnout To Obama Levels
In 2012, President Barack Obama came out of Mecklenburg County with nearly 101,000 more votes than Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Then, in 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton had 139,000 more votes than Donald Trump.
Looks like an unqualified success for Democrats, right? Not really.
Those additional votes came from affluent white areas that have historically voted Republican. In African American areas, enthusiasm was down.
“Some young people just took their ball and went home,” said Phyllis Perry, the Democratic chair for precinct 210, a heavily Black precinct that votes at the McCrorey YMCA on Beatties Ford Road in Charlotte. “And didn’t turn out as enthusiastically for Hillary because their candidate Bernie Sanders didn’t win.”
Four years ago, Black voters in precinct 210 gave Clinton a huge win, but she got 431 fewer votes than Obama received in 2012. That pattern repeated itself all across heavily African American areas of Charlotte and North Carolina.
Symone Sanders, who is a senior advisor to former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign, says the campaign is trying to fix that.
“Frankly, you talk about lessons learned from previous cycles, and you know, there is this category of disaffected voters in this country who have become more disaffected and disillusioned with the Democratic Party,” she said. “And a portion of that electorate is, in fact, African American men.”
There is no way to know for sure, but the Biden campaign estimates that 170,000 Black voters sat out the 2016 election in North Carolina after voting in 2012. That’s about Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton in the state.
The campaign last this month released an ad in an African American barbershop in Durham. It featured young Black men talking about the need to turnout.
They say things like: “November can’t come fast enough because there are families that need help now” and “there is no good reason if you are able to vote not to vote.”
The campaign has released nearly 30 digital or TV ads since late August that have run in North Carolina. Thirteen of those have targeted Black voters.
But it’s the campaign's in-person events that signal the importance of turning out Black voters.
Biden’s first visit to North Carolina since the primary was a “Black Economic Summit” two weeks ago in Charlotte’s Camp North End. His vice presidential pick, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, visited Shaw University in Raleigh, a historically Black school, this week. Harris is the first woman of color to be nominated for national office by a major party.
Those events were in-person but small. At Camp North End, NBA star Chris Paul was a featured guest, but the public wasn’t invited.
“Just because we are connecting virtually doesn’t mean that we aren’t reaching out to voters,” Sanders said. “And what we’ve seen is that these virtual events are a way to reach people. But it’s also organizing. And that means phone banks. That means this peer-to-peer texting. We are running a very aggressive organizing program that we think is going to yield us the results come this November.”
Last week, the Biden campaigned announced it would start in-person canvassing. But that was before President Trump tested positive for the coronavirus, and there have been no public plans to go door-to-door in North Carolina.
The NAACP is also launching an early voting program in 10 states, including North Carolina, to increase Black turnout by 5% compared with 2016.
This year began with a huge push by Republicans to peel off Black voters from the Democrats. The Trump campaign spent $10 million on two Super Bowl ads highlighting his criminal justice reform bill.
In February, the Trump campaign had planned to open field offices in Black neighborhoods in cities across the country, including Charlotte.
Tell us about your voting experience. Did it go smoothly? Were there any problems? How were the lines? Did you feel safe? If so, why or why not?