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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dems Fighting To Keep Black Voters, Losing Older Whites

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Democrats Take New Tack To Rally Base Voters (Blacks, Hispanics, Women)

Increasingly concerned about a demoralized base, Democratic Party leaders are accusing opponents of trying to delegitimize President Barack Obama and of preparing to suppress the votes of Minority and Poor voters in the November election.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine is expected to lay out in a speech Wednesday the party's latest plan to energize its base and appeal to such distinct groups as African-Americans, Latinos and younger voters, among others.

Democratic Party officials say they are not leaving white voters behind, especially in regions such as southwestern Virginia where they intend to compete hard. But to stave off anticipated losses in the midterm elections, officials say they have to bring out a large percentage of Americans who voted for the first time in 2008, half of whom were black, Latino or young voters.

Mr. Kaine, in the prepared text of his speech, calls this "our first priority'' and says it could bring a gain of 2% to 4% of votes cast in key races, "which is a significant margin.'' Mr. Obama said Monday in a video message that he planned to reach out to "the young people, African-Americans, Latinos and women, who powered our victory in 2008.''

The outreach is part of a broader effort: Mr. Obama also is trying to promote his administration's efforts to improve the economy, and Democrats are casting themselves as protecting voters from the excesses of Wall Street, the health-insurance industry and other interests. Mr. Obama held a town-hall meeting Tuesday in Iowa, one of the states with the highest proportion of white voters.

In Mr. Kaine's text, viewed by The Wall Street Journal, the former Virginia governor plans to promise a $50 million effort to counter what he calls a "political headwind." Part of the money will go to "recruit and train a corps of attorneys and law students" to monitor polling places and guard against voter-suppression efforts.

"We know the Republican Party still seeks to suppress the vote and initiate arbitrary challenges, particularly challenging minority and low-income voters," the text says.

Republican National Committee spokesman Doug Heye dismissed the Democratic allegations of voter suppression as shop worn. "Unfortunately for Democrats, desperate times are calling for desperate measures, and in this case the desperate measures are coming on an advanced timetable," he said. The charges of dirty politics, he added, are "an excuse for losing in advance."

Earlier this month, Mr. Kaine told an audience of Black Ministers that Republicans were waging an "intentional strategy" to undermine Mr. Obama. He made those comments at a New York City event hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is helping the party to mobilize Black Voters.

Party officials said Mr. Kaine has made similar comments to broader audiences, and Democratic officials said Tuesday they were not trying to tailor that message to African-Americans.

In that speech, the Democratic chairman cited legislation by Rep. Bill Posey (R., Fla.) as "perpetrating the lie that President Obama is not a citizen of the United States." He mentioned South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's cry of "You lie!" during a 2009 speech by Mr. Obama to Congress, as well as Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's charge this month that Mr. Obama's party was running a "gangster government."

"This is not just about differences of opinion.It's an intentional strategy…to try to take back in '10 what this nation historically did in '08," Mr. Kaine said.

Ms. Bachmann's office said Mr. Kaine misused her words, and that the phrase "gangster government" referred to federal intervention in the private sector. Ms. Bachmann, in a statement, criticized Democrats for a strategy that would "inject racially charged statements into today's political discourse."

A spokesman for Mr. Wilson, Pepper Pennington, said high unemployment and a government "takeover" of health care "will drive voters to the ballot box to make a change."

A spokesman for Mr. Posey, sponsor of the Presidential Eligibility Act, which would require presidential candidates to show birth certificates as proof that they were born in the U.S., said the bill was aimed at correcting an oversight in Election law and wasn't aimed at Mr. Obama.

The President has been dogged by rumors about his birthplace, despite the fact that many public officials, including the Republican governor of Hawaii, have said he was born in that state. Mr. Obama's Presidential campaign released a copy of his Hawaii birth certificate.

Democrats have long seen questions about Mr. Obama's citizenship as potentially beneficial. A January strategy memo from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, distributed to campaign strategists across the U.S., suggested that Democrats try to force Republican primary candidates to discuss the question:

"Do you believe that Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen?" Those questions, the memo said, would force "moderate" Republicans "to weigh in on the positions of your far-right opponents."

As part of its outreach, the Democratic National Committee will promote the policy agenda of Mr. Obama and the party, but its pitch will be tailored to different audiences.

"Women have seen the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act signed into law. Women and Latinos saw Justice Sonia Sotomayor appointed to the Supreme Court. African-Americans and young people will be among the groups who will benefit most from health reform. Young people will benefit from student loan reform," according to the text of Mr. Kaine's speech.

According to information provided by the party, the DNC's efforts will include presidential events and conference calls to rally support, voter registration with a new Web site,, 275 field staff members in 75 offices.

Still, the Democratic strategy holds considerable risk, especially when polling suggests a big drop in support for the president among middle-aged and older white voters.

Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh on Monday focused on Mr. Obama's message of "re-connecting" with Women and Minority voters, castigating what he called a lack of effort to connect with white voters.

Discussion of the Democratic strategy comes at the same time that a renewed debate over Illegal Immigration threatens to inflame divisions among voters.

On Friday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the nation's toughest law aimed at fighting illegal immigration. On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government may challenge the Arizona law, telling reporters the law is "subject to potential abuse."

Sources: Morning Joe, MSNBC, Wall Street Journal

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