Suppress This: GOP Vote 'Shenanigans' Drove Blacks to Polls
Blacks in key battleground states determined to vote, exit polling shows
Not only did President Barack Obama trounce challenger Mitt Romney in winning reelection Tuesday, black voters were as, or more, committed in their support for the president than 2008, exit polling showed, with many African Americans spurred on by perceptions of a covert, GOP-backed strategy to keep them from the polls this year.
Both outcomes debunked analysts' projections, with Obama beating Romney by at least 3 percentage points and 126 electoral votes and exit polling showing African Americans making up 13 percent of the electorate nationally, an uptick from 2008's 12 percent, and backing Obama with 94 percent of their vote.
“We worked it!” said Aaron Phillip, pastor of Sure House Baptist Church in Cleveland and a leading faith-based voice in the fight against voting law changes in battleground Ohio, where support for Obama propelled the president into the winner's circle. Phillip helped lead a caravan of black voters to the elections department for early voting.
In Ohio, black voter turnout was even more robust than it was in 2008. "Get out the vote" efforts, coupled with anger over new voter ID laws or attempts at same, helped mobilize many black voters.
“There was a lot of games and shenanigans,” Phillips said in a phone interview. “What really mobilized us was that we felt Republicans were trying to take the vote away from us. It had the reverse effect. It ignited us. If they would have left it alone, who knows what would have happened?”
While overall nationally blacks made up 13 percent of the vote, in Ohio, black voter share increased to 15 percent from 11 percent in 2008. Nationally, the share of Hispanic voters (7 in 10 of whom backed Obama) rose to double digits for the first time in 2012 to 10 percent, while white voter share decreased to 72 percent this year, from 74 percent in 2008.
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Obama campaign officials say national exit polling data was evidence of the power of the minority vote, which GOP nominee Romney clearly struggled to court during the waning months of the campaign.
“We won 90 to 97 percent of African Americans in the battleground states,” Jim Messina told reporters on a conference call Thursday, adding that Obama also received the highest percentage of Latino vote in battleground Florida of any candidate since 1996.
The data debunked what conservatives (and some pollsters) predicted would be a drop in black voter turnout due to general apathy and disproportionately high unemployment for both blacks and Latinos.
"Republicans have been saying for months" that Obama's black support would slip, Democratic pollster Paul Maslin told The Associated Press. "And what happens? When African-Americans had the chance to affirm him, they came out in droves."
Phillip described the long lines at polling places in Ohio and other key swing states as nothing short of “incredible.”
“People were excited,” he said. “I wish you could have seen. Lines backed up for blocks at the board of elections. And then on Election Day, you could see there were a lot of young African American young people…people you have never seen before, helping to get people to the polls.”
Anger in the black community over voter suppression tactics, which voting rights advocates determined early on were crafted to disenfranchise minority and Democratic voters, may have played a bigger role in turnout than the candidate did. After Obama's historic election in 2008, conservative policy makers began to aggressively push voter ID laws to Republican-controlled state legislatures. Many of the strictest laws requiring voters to present specific forms of government ID were either blocked or struck down before they could take effect for the 2012 election.
But black voters had already gotten the message -- the GOP wanted to stop any possible voter fraud by potentially disenfranchising large swaths of the African American voting bloc.
“Most of what we heard [from voters in long lines was], ‘Why would they think that someone wants to commit voter fraud? We want to see our president reelected. We want to do this. You can’t take something away from us,” Phillips said.
Political pundits were predicting intense post-election soul searching for the Republican Party, which, as the polling suggests, can no longer win presidential elections on the strength of conservative whites and male voters.
“They certainly need to develop some better strategies, if they want to win election,” Phillips said. “If they haven’t figured that out, then shame on them.”