Senate Dems push black voter turnout

Seeking to preserve majority by making Mo. outrage an issue

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WASHINGTON — With their Senate majority imperiled, Democrats are trying to mobilize African-Americans outraged by the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., to help them retain control of at least one chamber of Congress for President Barack Obama’s final two years in office.

In black churches and on black talk radio, African-American civic leaders have begun invoking the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, along with conservative calls to impeach Mr. Obama, as they urge black voters to channel their anger by voting Democratic in the midterm elections, in which minority turnout is typically lower.

“Ferguson has made it crystal clear to the African-American community and others that we’ve got to go to the polls,” said Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a civil rights leader. “You participate and vote, and you can have some control over what happens to your child and your country.”

The push is an attempt to counter Republicans’ many advantages in this year’s races, including polls that show Republican voters are much more engaged in the elections at this point — an important predictor of turnout.

Mr. Lewis is headlining efforts to mobilize black voters in several states with competitive Senate races, including Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina. The drive is being organized by the Congressional Black Caucus, in coordination with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Other steps, such as recruiting National Basketball Association players to help register more African-Americans, are also underway.

While Dem­o­crats al­ways seek to in­crease African-Amer­i­can turn­out, that they are tak­ing such ag­gres­sive steps to rally their most loyal con­stit­u­ency re­flects the in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult land­scape they face. In re­cent weeks, seats in Col­o­rado, Iowa and New Hamp­shire, once ex­pected to tilt to­ward the Dem­o­crats, have be­come more com­pet­i­tive. Mr. Obama’s ap­proval rat­ing has tum­bled be­low 40 per­cent in states with some of the most com­pet­i­tive races, and Re­pub­li­cans al­ready seem as­sured to win at least three of the six seats they need to take back the Senate.

And the ter­rain is tricky: Many of the states where the black vote could be most cru­cial are also those where Mr. Obama is deeply un­pop­u­lar among many white vot­ers. So Demo­cratic sen­a­tors in places like Ar­kan­sas, Lou­i­si­ana and North Car­o­lina must dis­tance them­selves from the na­tion’s first African-Amer­i­can pres­i­dent while try­ing to mo­ti­vate the black vot­ers who are his most loyal con­stit­u­ents.

La­bor Day is the un­of­fi­cial kick­off for the gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign, and an­a­lysts say the con­test for con­trol of the Senate re­mains un­set­tled, though most give a slight edge to the Re­pub­li­cans. After a tur­bu­lent sum­mer dom­i­nated more by a suc­ces­sion of grim news events at home and abroad than by typ­i­cal elec­tion-year ap­peals, of­fi­cials in both par­ties agree that the cam­paign is fluid and that a wave elec­tion, with one party win­ning a large num­ber of seats, is un­likely to hap­pen.

The black vote could prove par­tic­u­larly de­ci­sive in four South­ern states: Geor­gia and Lou­i­si­ana, where African-Amer­i­cans make up more than 30 per­cent of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers; North Car­o­lina, where they are 22 per­cent; and Ar­kan­sas, 15 per­cent.

While mi­nor­ity turn­out tra­di­tion­ally de­clines in non­pres­i­den­tial elec­tion years, there have been mid­term elec­tions in which South­ern blacks played a piv­otal role. An ex­am­ple oc­curred in 1998, when Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton was, like Mr. Obama, un­der fire from Re­pub­li­cans and near­ing the end of his White House years.

And polls show that blacks are three times as likely to say the shoot­ing of Mr. Brown, an un­armed black 18-year-old, by a white Fer­gu­son po­lice of­fi­cer was not jus­ti­fied.

With this in mind, lead­ing black of­fi­cials are mov­ing to seize the af­ter­math of the shoot­ing and sub­se­quent pro­tests to in­crease African-Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion.

United States government - Barack Obama - Bill Clinton - United States Congress - U.S. Republican Party - United States Senate - U.S. Democratic Party - Mitch McConnell - United States House of Representatives - Michael Bennet - Trayvon Martin - Al Sharpton - John Lewis - James Clyburn - Celinda Lake - Michael Brown - Kasim Reed


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