While President Obama’s re-election campaign can boast multiple demographic pathways to victory on November 6, strategists on both campaigns are looking intently at the white vote. 2012, of course, is more diverse than 2008, and 2010 U.S. Census Bureau numbers prove the American population is browning rapidly. Whether or not Barack Obama can keep himself from the becoming the first one-term Black president hinges on the turnout of white voters — despite all the platitudes about minority turnout.
Both campaigns spent time hammering through the Olympic Games’ clutter. In the attempt, both camps threw signals into the election atmosphere to see which one would stick — and how much middle-class, white voters would pay attention.
“If President Obama gets 40 percent of the white vote, he has a chance to win re-election,” writes BuzzFeed’s politics blogger John Ellis. “If President Obama gets 35 percent of the white vote, he's finished.”
According to the most recent YouGov numbers, that’s a tough hill to climb. In total, only 37 percent of white voters approve of the president — compared to 56 percent who disapprove. In terms of voter preference, it’s the same as 53 percent of white voters identify themselves at Mitt Romney supporters.
In 2008, then-candidate Obama won 43 percent of the white vote. The last Democratic presidential nominee to do that was Bill Clinton in 1996.
This was the reasoning some observers pointed to in rationalizing the Republican nominee’s recent gaffe-ridden trip to Europe. Republican strategists were not too keen on admitting it, either on or off record, but there were a number of reasons why Romney would want to visit England and Poland. The kick-off of Team Romney’s aggressive courting for white votes was unapologetic as one senior campaign aide bragged about the “special” Anglo-Saxon ties between Britain and the United States that the current president — being as Black as he is — didn’t “appreciate.”
But, those controversial comments provided more indication that Republicans believe they also have multiple pathways to victory. The only dilemma is they are all white. That’s problematic when going up against an incumbent who can rely on cobbling together a number of diverse cultural outlets: Blacks, Hispanics, LGBTs, women, etc. … and at least some of the white vote, too.
Based on President Obama’s approval ratings among whites, that won’t stop the Romney campaign from nibbling away at ethnic Caucasian enclaves and voters in key states. The visit to Poland is an example of this strategy. Polish-American voters account for nearly 10 percent of the overall electorate. That number include places like Pennsylvania, a very critical battleground state, where the Polish population is near 8 percent and is one of the Top 6 “ethnic” demographics in the state.
Still, the majority of Polish-Americans identify themselves as Democrats. “It is not unreasonable to conclude that many Polish-American Democrats tend to be in the more conservative wing of the party,” was the conclusion of the non-partisan Piast Institute, a group which studies such trends.
The foreign policy benefits are a bit limited, but Romney probably represents — minus the election — the first in what will later become a very public wave of U.S. support for a strong buffer country against Russia. As it turns out, Poland is ranked 22nd globally in military expenditures. Noted geopolitical analyst George Friedman predicts Poland will become a world power by the middle of the century.
There’s more to it, however, than just Polish vote perks and a likely partner in the quiet post-Cold War against Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Nearly 90 percent of the Polish population is devoutly Roman Catholic, another blatant play the GOP is making for Catholic votes — from the contraceptives controversy to continuing flaps over abortion and the much-hyped “War on Women.”
But, it’s the Jewish element to Romney’s European trip that had Team Obama strategists worried, even as the president’s surrogates openly mocked and clowned the tour as amateur hour. The Republican candidate made back-to-back jumps from Israel to Poland, from the Jewish homeland to a country ranked among the Top 20 countries with significant Jewish populations. That Romney would make stops in both is a formidable acknowledgement of Jewish history. Poland holds a very deep and heartfelt place in the Jewish Diaspora’s heart since it contained one of the largest and most active pockets of European Jews before their tragic near-extermination during the Holocaust.
While poking fun at Romney’s overseas gaffes, cautious Democratic observers were playing careful attention to the Republican candidate’s overtures to Jewish voters. And Democrats have had problems wooing Jewish donors as the perception of an unfriendly President Obama who chides Israel in favor of Palestinian interests is growing.
Romney’s European tour may have been one of many brazen shots in the war for ethnic white votes. “Now it’s a smaller percentage of the population — of the voting population — than it used to be, but white voters are still much more Republican than any other group in the electorate,” opined NPR political analyst Cokie Roberts. “They went for McCain in 2008 by 55 percent. And I think that getting those ethnic voters excited is really what Romney has in mind here.”
Mormon Church on the spot as Romney gains momentum
As Mitt Romney gets closer and closer to the Republican presidential nomination, many are starting to ask how his candidacy will play out with African-Americans, particularly as it relates to matters of faith.
Until 1978, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), of which Romney is a member and former bishop, or lay pastor, banned men of African descent from its priesthood, and barred black men and women from sacred temple ceremonies that promised access in the afterlife to the highest heaven.
The LDS church has neither formally apologized for the priesthood ban, nor publicly repudiated many of the theories used to justify it for more than 125 years.
“I think the question you're asking is one that many are currently addressing,” said Rosemary Avance, a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication. “Romney's run for office has brought a lot of the Church's history out in the open for public scrutiny, and the race issue is no exception. I think you'll find that members of the Church are themselves just beginning to address some of these historical issues.”
This history is a long one, stretching back to the inception of the church of the 1830s. Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of Mormonism, ran for president in 1844 as a moderate abolitionist; ordained a Black man, Elijah Abel; and offered to adopt one young black convert, Jane Manning James, as his spiritual daughter.
Yet earlier in his life, Smith wrote anti-abolitionist screeds replete with racist sentiment typical of Christian pro-slavery apologists of antebellum America. In one 1836 letter to missionaries in the South, Smith excoriated northern abolitionists as the instigators of discord among southern slaves who, he argued, were generally happy.
Other figures early in the Church’s history illustrated such prejudices as well. The Mormon prophet Brigham Young stated in 1852, “Any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain] … in him cannot hold the priesthood.” Up until the mid-twentieth-century, some prophets perpetuated the idea that Blacks were spiritually inferior, the permanently cursed descendants of Ham and Cain (a myth once popular in many American churches).
In 1931, Church President Joseph Fielding Smith, the great-nephew of Joseph Smith Jr., wrote a widely distributed treatise — still available on Kindle — asserting that Blacks were “fence-sitters” during a pre-mortal battle between God and Lucifer. When they were sent to Earth, according to Fielding Smith, Blacks were marked with darkened skin as a permanent reminder of their perfidy.
According to Christiandefense.org, LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed on them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God, and his murder of Abel being a black skin. . . . Noah's son married Egyptus, a descendant of Cain, thus preserving the negro lineage through the flood. ... the negro are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned. ... " (Mormon Doctrine, 527-28; 1966 orig. ed., changed in the current ed.; emphasis added).
Black Mormons say the church's silence not only irks many African-Americans, it could also become a loud distraction for the nation's most prominent Mormon: Romney.
"Right now is a great opportunity for the church to say, 'Let's clear the air once and for all,'" said Darron Smith, co-editor of the book "Black and Mormon" and a sociologist at Wichita State University in Kansas to Religion News Service.
"But they won't do it. And that's going to put reasonable doubt in people's minds about Romney and the church."
The LDS church is mounting a multimillion-dollar campaign to highlight its growing diversity. In billboards, online ads and TV commercials, Latinos, Asians and African-Americans alike assert, "I'm a Mormon."
But the church remains overwhelmingly white. A recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that Blacks comprise just 1 percent of the nearly 6 million Mormons in the U.S.
LDS church spokesman Michael Purdy said Mormonism is growing in Africa and in racially diverse communities in the U.S. and Latin America.
God rejects "none who come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female," Purdy said in a statement, quoting The Book of Mormon. "Just as God loves all of his children, wants what is best for them, and considers them as equals, so does the church," he added.
But many Blacks perceive the LDS church as racist. Recently an African-American pastor in Florida who supports Rick Santorum’s campaign raised the racial charge.
"Blacks are not going to vote for anyone of the Mormon faith," the Rev. O'Neal Dozier told The Palm Beach Post on Jan. 22. "The Book of Mormon says the Negro skin is cursed."
In actuality, the Book of Mormon says no such thing. But another Mormon scripture, The Pearl of Great Price, does say, "blackness came upon" Cain's descendants, who were "despised among all people."
Among Cain's heirs was Noah's son, Ham, who was "cursed … as pertaining to the priesthood," according to the scripture. Mormons trace their priesthood to Adam and Noah.
Questions about Mormonism's racial history also arose during Romney's first White House run.
In a 2007 Meet the Press interview, Tim Russert noted that Romney was 31 when the priesthood ban was lifted in 1978. "Didn't you think, 'What am I doing part of an organization that is viewed by many as a racist organization?'" Russert asked.
"I'm very proud of my faith, and it's the faith of my fathers," Romney answered. "And I'm not going to distance myself from my faith in any way."
But Romney also said that he had been "anxious to see a change in my church" and recalled weeping when he heard that the ban had been lifted.
"Even at this day it's emotional, and so it's very deep and fundamental in my life and my most core beliefs that all people are children of God," Romney said.
Pressed by Russert, Romney refused to say his church was wrong to restrict Blacks from full participation.
Romney's forebears were among the original Mormon converts in the 1830s, and Romney himself was a bishop in the church before he entered politics in 1994.
Romney's father, George Romney, also faced criticism over the priesthood ban when he ran for president in 1968. He answered by extolling his civil rights record as governor of Michigan.
George Romney, like his son, refused to publicly criticize his church.
"The issue hurt him, and it hurt the image of Mormon church," Newell Bringhurst, a historian and co-author of “The Mormon Quest for the Presidency”, told USA Today.
It may mar Mitt Romney's campaign too, Bringhurst said. "He'll face more and more scrutiny on the Mormon-Black issue, even though the church has abandoned the policy."
According to Purdy, leaders started looking for divine guidance about the Black ban in the 1970s. In 1978, he said, "a revelation to the church's prophet extended the blessings of the priesthood to all worthy members."
"It was a day of great rejoicing in the church," Purdy said.
But the 1978 statement did not address the theological background behind the ban.
In 1949, the LDS church's First Presidency — the top tier of its hierarchy — had said the priesthood ban was a "direct commandment from the Lord." And LDS leaders regarded as prophets taught that black skin was punishment for souls that lacked valor in a pre-earthly existence.
"Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications," Purdy said. "These previous personal statements do not represent church doctrine."
But even prophets' personal statements are taken as holy writ, and theories about Blacks being cursed or spiritually lacking circulated among Mormons well after the ban was lifted.
Even under intense pressure from Black Mormons, the church has refused to formally repudiate past interpretations of doctrine or scripture that tie spiritual worthiness to race.
"If the LDS church were to apologize, that would be casting aspersions on God's prophets — the voice of God on earth," said Richard Ostling, co-author of the book “Mormon America.”
"I don't think the Mormon soul could countenance it."
The New Republic and Religion News Service contributed to this report.
Zack Burgess is the Enterprise Writer for The Tribune. He is a freelance writer and editor who covers culture, politics and sports. He can be contacted at zackburgess.com.
Dear Mr. President:
As a fan and supporter, I have watched your maturation from a hungry young state senator to the undisputed leader of the free world with no small measure of pride and admiration.
Along with millions of other fans, I readied for Wednesday night’s debate with eager anticipation. I had the beer on ice and a big bag of Doritos, and settled on the couch in front of the big screen ready to watch a smackdown of epic proportions.
And it is because of my great respect for you as a leader, as a critical thinker, and as a man, that I feel compelled to ask you the following question concerning your debate performance:
What the hell happened?
You, sir, were owned. And worse, owned by a guy whose every sentence was based on lies and exaggerations. You allowed him to answer every question with a big fat whopper, and never once called him on it.
You let him get away with telling the American public that he would not lower taxes on the rich, a lie so blatant it defies his own campaign rhetoric. You stood there looking down at your notes while he promised to save Medicare, when his plan calls for making it a voucher system that would leave Grandma to decide between buying her medications or buying groceries.
Even though the debate was specifically on domestic policy, you never once mentioned Romney’s recent write off of 47 percent of the American people as lazy, entitlement junkies who won’t take responsibility for their own lives. You didn’t bring up the auto bailout, which saved thousands of jobs and the entire U.S. auto industry, which your opponent famously said should be allowed to die. You let him jabber on about banking regulations while you remained silent about his sending his own money on vacation in the Cayman Islands. You even allowed him to talk about tax fairness without mentioning his own reluctance to release his tax returns.
In short, sir, and with all due respect — you suddenly became Clint Eastwood’s empty chair.
Where was the Obama we’ve all come to know and love? The passionate firebrand who wears his heart on his sleeve, the brilliant orator who commands the stage like no other before him, the consummate communicator who connects at a personal level with everyone from infants to World War II veterans?
I kept waiting for that guy to show up, but he never did. I screamed at the television, arms flailing and Doritos flying in every direction. I begged you to throw punches, pleaded with you to wipe that smirk off his lying face — but you just stood there, staring down at your notes.
I suspect your debate prep team, who should be fired immediately, warned you repeatedly not to appear as The Angry Black Man, as some conservative pundits have labeled you. They probably told you to remain stoic, to not show emotion and to ignore Romney’s potshots.
Your team failed to prepare you for the one thing they should have known would happen: Romney’s lies. You seemed flummoxed from the first time Plastic Man said his tax plan wouldn’t hurt the middle class, and wasn’t a 5 trillion dollar kiss to the super-rich. It was, of course, a contemptible lie, but you seemed unprepared for it — unprepared even to call it out as a falsehood.
It was his Etch-A-Sketch moment — when he would simply shake everything upside down and start fresh, categorically denying every campaign promise and talking point he made for the past 18 months. His campaign said in early summer that it would happen, and yet you seemed sandbagged by it.
Now, all that is water under the bridge. You have another debate with Plastic Man on Oct. 16 at Hofstra University. It’s a town hall format, perfect for your style and ability to connect with an audience.
Don’t make the same mistake twice. Ignore that “Angry Black Man” nonsense, and as soon as Romney gives you an opening like he did in Denver, verbally slap him upside the head. You want to have some fun with it? Yell, “You lie!” in the middle of his speech.
Right before he went on stage for the famous 1960 Nixon–Kennedy presidential debate, JFK got a short pep talk from his brother, Bobby, who took his candidate by the arm and whispered, “Kick him in the [groin].”
Kennedy, as history proved, did just that. I just wish someone had given you the same advice Wednesday night in Denver.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
Surviving slavery, segregation and discrimination has forged a special pride in African-Americans. Now some are saying this hard-earned pride has become prejudice in the form of blind loyalty to President Barack Obama.
Are Black people supporting Obama mainly because he's Black? If race is just one factor in Blacks' support of Obama, does that make them racist? Can Blacks' support for Obama be compared with white voters who may favor his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, because he's white?
These questions have long animated conservatives who are frustrated by claims that white people who oppose Obama's policies are racist. This week, when a Black actress who tweeted an endorsement of Romney was subjected to a stream of abuse from other African-Americans, the politics of racial accusation came full circle once again.
Stacey Dash, who also has Mexican heritage, is best known for the 1995 film "Clueless" and the recent cable-TV drama "Single Ladies." On Twitter, she was called "jigaboo," ''traitor," ''house nigger" and worse after posting, "Vote for Romney. The only choice for your future."
The theme of the insults: A Black woman would have to be stupid, subservient or both to choose a white Republican over the first Black president.
Russell Simmons, the hip-hop mogul and Obama backer, called Dash's experience "racism." Said Barbara Walters on "The View": "If she were white, this wouldn't have happened."
Twitter users are by no means representative of America, and many Black Obama supporters quickly denounced the attacks. But for people like Art Gary, an information technology professional, the reason Dash was attacked is simple: She is a Black woman supporting a white candidate over a Black one.
"It goes both ways," said Gary, who is white. "There is racial bias amongst whites, and there is racial bias amongst Blacks. But as far as the press is concerned, it only goes one way."
Antonio Luckett, a sales representative in Milwaukee who is Black, called the attacks on Dash unfair. But when people speak out against a symbol of Black progress like Obama, he said, "African-Americans tend to be internally hurt by that."
"We still have a civil rights (era) mentality, but we're not living in a civil rights-based world anymore," he said. "We want to say, 'You're Black, you need to stand behind Black people.'"
Luckett said one reason he voted for Obama in the 2008 primary against Hillary Clinton was because Obama is Black: "Yes, I will admit that."
Is that racism? Not in Luckett's mind. "It's voting for someone who would understand your side of the coin a lot better."
Such logic runs into trouble when applied to a white person voting for Romney because he understands whiteness better. Ron Christie, a Black conservative who worked for former President George W. Bush, finds both sides of that coin unacceptable.
"It's not the vision that our leaders in the civil rights movement would have envisioned and be proud of in the era of the first African-American president," Christie said.
Martin Luther King Jr. fought Jim Crow laws, which deprived Blacks of political rights after Reconstruction, upheld by Southern Democrats. But Black voters switched after Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed through the 1960s civil rights legislation and Republicans successfully pursued the votes of white people who disliked the civil rights agenda.
Since then, Democrats have persistently wooed Black voters with programs and platforms that African-Americans favor, and the party has been rewarded every four years.
Clinton got 83 percent of the Black vote in 1992 and 84 percent in 1996; the third-party candidate Ross Perot probably sliced away some of Clinton's Black support. Al Gore got 90 percent in 2000; John Kerry got 88 percent in 2004. Obama captured 95 percent in 2008, and 2 million more Black people voted than in the previous election.
Christie says he, too, shares the sense of pride in Obama smashing what for Blacks is the ultimate glass ceiling. He understands that Black pride springs from a shared history of being treated as less than human, while the history of pride in whiteness has a racist context.
But he still sees Black people voting for Obama out of a "straitjacket solidarity."
Christie sees it in his barbershop, where Black men shifted from calling candidate Obama "half-white" and "not one of us" to demanding that Christie stop opposing the first Black president.
He sees it in the comments of radio host Tom Joyner, who told his millions of listeners a year ago, "Let's not even deal with facts right now. Let's deal with our Blackness and pride — and loyalty. . I'm not afraid or ashamed to say that as Black people, we should do it because he's a Black man."
The actor Samuel L. Jackson said much the same thing: "I voted for Barack because he was Black," he told Ebony magazine. "Cuz that's why other folks vote for other people — because they look like them."
In 2011, as Black unemployment continued to rise, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus said that if Clinton was still president, "we probably would be still marching on the White House . (but) nobody wants to do anything that would empower the people who hate the president."
And just last week, the rapper Snoop Dogg posted a list of voting reasons, written by someone else, on a social media account. No. 1 on his pro-Obama list: He's Black. Snoop's top reason to not vote for Romney: He's white.
All of this may help explain why Veronica Scott-Miller, a junior at historically Black Hampton University, directed the following tweet at Dash: "You get a lil money and you forget that you're Black and a woman. Two things Romney hates."
In an interview, Scott-Miller said the GOP fought Obama's effort to provide funding for historically Black colleges like hers. She dislikes Romney's opposition to abortion and thinks Republicans have a "negative stigma about us . they make generalizations in their speeches about our race in general, and they make up terms like welfare queens and stuff."
Told that some saw her tweet as racist, she said that's not what she meant. "I was saying that as a Black woman, Romney doesn't have that much that would make us want to vote for him," said Scott-Miller, who is Black. "Because Barack Obama lives with three Black women in his house, he knows about what they need, he knows about the issues we may be facing, he talks to Black women on the regular."
Sherrilyn Ifill, a law professor at the University of Maryland, wrote a column last week exploring why so many Black voters are rejecting Romney. She said it has less to do with the candidate than with his party's treatment of Obama, such as John Sununu calling the president "lazy" after the debate, a congressman shouting "You lie!" during the State of the Union address, claims that Obama is not a citizen and more.
In an interview, Ifill said that for Black voters, such accusations feel like white people are attacking their own dignity. "In essence," she says, "they are closing ranks around Obama."
She noted that women were justifiably moved by Hillary Rodham Clinton's candidacy and Catholics flocked to the polls to elect President John F. Kennedy. Comparing Black pride in Obama to white pride in Romney is a "false symmetry" because of the history of Black oppression, she says, and she asked for patience from America at large.
"There should not be this resistance to pride over the first Black president," Ifill says. "If we get to the fifth one, I'll be with you." -- (AP)
The most perplexing question surrounding this year’s Republican race for the presidential nomination has been why can’t Mitt Romney seem to close the deal, despite running against what many consider an inferior set of opponents.
He has rarely exceeded 20 or 25 percent in national polls. And many pundits believe that the 25 percent support he has garnered thus far is about as far as Romney’s support will go — which leaves him extremely vulnerable to candidates like Newt Gingrich, who is working to distinguish himself as the latest ‘non-Romney’ candidate and consolidate much of the remaining 75 percent of the Republican vote.
There was Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and now Gingrich. While the non-Romney’s rose and fell, Romney’s numbers have never seemed to move, with voters seemingly transferring their support from one surging candidate to the next.
“So far, with only three states having weighed in on who the nominee should be, I don't think it's fair to say that Romney isn't able to close the deal,” said Client Strategist for the Republican National Committee Eric Wilson. “At the end of the day, Republicans are going to unite around our nominee, because any of the candidates still in the race will make a better president than Barack Obama.”
If you look beyond the top-line data in the polls, it becomes clear that nowhere near 75 percent of Republican voters have been vehemently opposed to nominating Romney. A Gallup poll conducted before New Hampshire’s primary, for instance, found that only about 30 percent of Republican voters considered Romney an unacceptable nominee. These numbers have bounced around a bit from time to time and from survey to survey, but these results are fairly typical when questions like these are put to the voters.
About 25 percent of Republican voters are in Romney’s base (incidentally, about 22 percent of Republicans nationwide voted for Romney in their party’s primaries in 2008). And about 30 percent of the Republican primary electorate is truly opposed to him.
That leaves a swing group of about 45 percent of the vote. These voters can certainly imagine candidates that they’d prefer to Romney — but they also consider him an acceptable choice, more or less.
What seems to have become clear is that the hypothetical candidate these voters might have preferred to Romney has not materialized.
There are enough substantive and stylistic differences between the various non-Romney candidates that they should not be viewed as interchangeable, this evidence suggests. A considerable number of Santorum’s voters prefer Romney to Gingrich; a considerable number of Gingrich’s voters prefer Romney to Santorum.
And voters in the swing group are now settling for Romney. They are not necessarily doing so enthusiastically: A recent Pew poll found that there has been little improvement in Republican voters’ overall views of their candidates, which is unusual but not unprecedented.
The 2004 Democratic presidential race parallels this one in many ways.
For example, Democratic turnout was reasonably strong in November 2004, despite voters’ initial lack of enthusiasm for John Kerry. The opportunity to beat a polarizing incumbent is a powerful motivating force.
Jon Huntsman was candid when he offered insight into just how little faith Republicans have that Romney can beat Obama. Keep in mind, Huntsman has thrown his support behind Romney now that he is no longer in the race.
A recent Gallup poll found that GOP enthusiasm is on the decline. Republicans and Democrats are almost even, enthusiasm-wise, as they move further into the election year.
And the 2012 election is looking more like a carbon copy of 2008, which also looked an awful lot like 1996. Republicans are lining up behind Romney. The GOP seems to be coming to the realization that they have to nominate somebody, so it might as well be Mitt Romney.
But Romney's sudden downgrade from Republican frontrunner to potential also-ran coincided with a massive shift of conservative Christian voters in South Carolina to Gingrich's camp.
Why? Many observers trace it to lingering suspicion among evangelicals — a key Republican constituency — about Romney's Mormon faith.
And that has led some to suggest that Romney needs to make a speech about his Mormonism along the lines of John F. Kennedy's defense of his Catholicism to Protestant leaders during the 1960 campaign.
So could Romney pull a Kennedy? Should he?
Mike Huckabee, an evangelical favorite who sought the GOP nod in 2008, told Fox News after Romney's South Carolina implosion that the time had come for Romney to give it a shot.
"I do think he ought to address it," Huckabee said, arguing that such a speech would "sort of dismiss it, make it less important."Top of Form
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But few political observers, and apparently even fewer Romney's allies, appear to be urging that step.
For one thing, the tracking polls in the GOP contest over the past months have registered more spikes and dips than an erratic electrocardiogram. Romney's cardiac moment in South Carolina — and his continuing struggle heading into Tuesday’s Florida primary — needs to be seen in that context.
"I think it was more a result of Newt Gingrich catching fire combined with a pretty tough week for Mitt on issues like taxes and income," said David French, a social conservative and Romney ally who with his wife, Nancy, just published a book, "Why Evangelicals Should Support Mitt Romney (and Feel Good About It!)."
"It's a pretty conventional narrative — at least by the conventions of this very volatile race," French added. "If there was any blanket anti-Mormon sentiment, then Mitt would not have been up to begin with."
When Kennedy addressed the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September 1960, it was only two months before the November election, and he did not have to worry about his Democratic base the way Romney has to worry about securing the GOP base to win the primaries.
Kennedy's chief task in 1960 actually was not to convert his audience; they were already a lost cause, and he knew it. What the Kennedy campaign hoped to do was to influence the 23 percent of the wider electorate who were still undecided.
"The campaign's polling showed that yes, if Kennedy could paint himself as a victim of anti-Catholic bigotry, that will move people your way," said Shaun Casey, a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary and author of "The Making of a Catholic President: Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960." And it worked.
Romney's "religion" problem is about numbers as much as theology. As Casey notes, Kennedy's other task in Houston was to rally his Catholic base, which he did. But rallying an already strong GOP Mormon base wouldn't do much for Romney.
While Kennedy had a Catholic population of 40 million behind him — about one-quarter of the electorate, concentrated in key battleground states — Mormons today number just about 2 million, and are geographically concentrated in the Mountain West in mostly reliable red states (with the exception of toss-ups Nevada and Colorado).
Romney already gave a "Houston" speech — and it didn't work. Back in 2007, Romney was struggling to overcome evangelicals' doubts about his Mormon faith. While the speech was well received, it didn't move Iowa caucus-goers back then, and a second speech now would likely not convince suspicious evangelicals in Florida (and beyond).
Romney's biggest task is convincing conservative Christians that he is a conservative, not that he is a Christian.
Evangelicals have shown they are happy to back all sorts of unorthodox candidates – Herman Cain being a perfect example. Evangelicals may not love Mormons, but they are really down on moderates. Indeed, Romney is arguably "not Mormon enough," Richard Land, a top Southern Baptist official, said on the eve of the South Carolina vote.
"If his stance on life and his stance on marriage had been consistently what the stance of the Mormon church has been, he would have far less doubts among social conservatives," Land said.
Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a top evangelical political activist, said he doesn't think Romney's Mormonism will necessarily preclude him from winning evangelical votes or the GOP nomination, so he doesn't need to make the Kennedy speech at this point.
"Bottom line is," said Reed, "he may need to address it as the campaign proceeds, and he may choose to address it as part of a speech down the road."
In Florida, which is more diverse and less ideological than South Carolina, cooler heads could prevail if Romney can exploit his advantage in minions and millions. He has had the airwaves largely to himself for weeks, accompanied by a superior organization. Romney's campaign is in attack mode now – a sign that the campaign shares the Washington insiders' anxiety.
“The process is working and there's still time for voters to decide,” said Wilson. “Romney's greatest appeal continues to be the 'electability argument' and as long as he continues to raise the money needed to fuel his organization, he'll be in the contest. The other candidates remaining in the race don't have organizations on par with Romney so in many ways they're playing catch up.”
The New York Times Contributed to this report.
Zack Burgess is the enterprise writer for The Tribune. He is a freelance writer and Editor who covers culture, politics and sports. He can be contacted at zackburgess.com.
Don’t let anyone kid you. While it is true that certain states are almost certain to go one way or the other in Tuesday’s presidential election, when you have an election that seems as close as this one, every vote counts.
The one thing that happens when the polls indicate that a race is tied is that you lose any room for complacency. Those who might sit back and, in this case, assume that President Obama will coast to a reelection, are forced to rethink that position. There are no certainties. For that reason, those who support the re-election of President Obama cannot afford the luxury of believing that if they live in New York their vote does not matter because the state will go with Obama. The same applies to voters living in South Carolina and other states expected to go to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
First, the electorate is unpredictable in many respects. The “get out the vote” efforts in each state will be critical irrespective of what the polls say. Second, the election is not simply about the presidency but about an entire list of other offices. Therefore, sitting home and assuming that the election will turn out one way or the other is a recipe for disaster.
Let’s also be clear that there is particular volatility among Wwhite voters. We have had four years of a Black president who, while having not discussed race very much, is now not simply an idea but a reality. For some whites there will be a tendency to seek out the white guy, feeling that the Black guy really did not do enough. There will be others who will turn to Romney, not necessarily because of racism, but out of frustration that conditions have simply not improved sufficiently.
The Obama administration, over these past four years, should have been an outspoken champion of working people and should have taken a much harder stand against corporate interests. Its failure to do so was the result of both the alliances that helped bring the administration into office, plus the insufficient national pressure from those of us on the outside to insist that the administration act differently. These are critical lessons, and should Obama be re-elected, will hopefully help to shape the approach that Black America takes toward the administration.
In the meantime there are forces afoot who wish to turn back the clock; who wish to ignore changing demographics in the USA, and who wish to enrich the upper crust of this society. They desperately want the presidency, and it appears that they will do whatever it takes and will spend billions of dollars in order to be successful.
For those of us who stand against greed and the crushing of the average person, Nov. 6 will be the day to take action; it will be a day to take action precisely against those who wish to turn back the clock. That means vote, vote early; make sure every eligible voter in your household votes; and make sure that your friends and co-workers vote. You really do not want to awaken on Nov. 7 and find out that the “bad guys” won, particularly if they won by a slim margin. – (NNPA)
WASHINGTON — One of the oldest U.S. civil rights groups says President Barack Obama may have a tougher time winning at least three battleground states in November if Black voter turnout falls at least 5 percentage points below the record levels that helped to put him in the White House.
Black voter turnout of 64.7 percent was a significant factor in Obama's victory in 2008, and African Americans are considered solidly behind Obama now. But having achieved the milestone of electing the nation's first Black president, Black voters may be less motivated to return to the polls in droves again, the National Urban League said in a report released this week.
The Urban League released its report ahead of the president's July 25 speech scheduled for opening day at its national convention in New Orleans, and a week after Romney was booed at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People convention for saying, among other things, that he would repeal Obama's landmark health care law if he is elected.
Assuming no change in 2008 voting patterns, Urban League researchers said, Black turnout at about 60 percent or below could cost Obama the state of North Carolina and make it difficult for him to win Ohio and Virginia. In addition to diminished voter enthusiasm, the still-ailing economy, persistent high unemployment among Blacks, new state voting laws and limited growth in the African-American population could help discourage turnout.
"We achieved a high-water mark in America in 2008. For the first time, African Americans were at the table with white America" because the turnout of Black voters was just 1.4 points below white voters, said Chanelle Hardy, senior vice president and executive director of the National Urban League Policy Institute. But, "because we achieved so much in 2008, we have to push even harder to meet those numbers."
"President Obama does not take a single vote or support from any community for granted, and he is working to secure the same levels of support based on policies that give everyone a fair shot and the opportunity to succeed," said Clo Ewing of the Obama campaign.
The campaign for likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney said he would compete for Black votes.
Tara Wall, a spokeswoman for Romney's campaign, said Romney acknowledges he won't get a majority of Black voters' support but recognizes Obama can't count on the margins he once enjoyed.
"Every percentage point that we chip away from President Obama counts," Wall said.
A number of other changes could affect the influence of the Black vote. Increased turnout of Hispanic voters, who went heavily for Obama in 2008, or drops in the turnout of conservative Republicans could conceivably offset a lower Black-voter turnout.
Marc Morial, National Urban League president, said the African-American vote should not be thought of as static, even if Black voters are expected to overwhelmingly cast their ballots for Obama. "We wanted to point out that turnout makes a difference, and African-American turnout makes a difference," Morial said.
African-American voter turnout has been on a steady climb since 1996, when turnout was just 53 percent.
Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory University, said mobilization will be key. "You just can't take anything for granted in this type of race where you've got this level of polarization." -- (AP)
Right on the heels of North Carolina becoming the 31st state in the Union to pass a ban on homosexual marriage, President Barack Obama announced his support of matrimony between same sex couples.
The president’s public support of same sex marriage could either be a boon or a curse for his re-election campaign; it’s too soon to tell, despite the fact that he’s just received a million dollars in campaign contributions. But one thing is certain; the president’s public stance in favor of homosexual marriage has drawn a dividing line among voters. Will it have an affect among African-American voters, some members of the Black clergy think it will.
“I think it will to some extent,” said Bishop Ernest C. Morris Sr., Jurisdictional Prelate for Koinonia Jurisdiction. “A large percentage of Black Christians believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman. What he may be banking on is the African-American community’s love for the first Black president but he should consider that large numbers of Black churches won’t agree with this. There are too many passages in Scripture that denounce homosexuality and I can’t see how to fully justify it from the Word of God. Don’t misunderstand me; this is not about hatred of homosexuals because we are all sinners in need of a savior and God is so gracious. It is the continuous practice of this that the Bible is against. I also think that as the nation’s first Black president, he’s seen not just as the political leader of our country but as more than that. Many people see him as a moral and spiritual leader as well.”
On Wednesday May 9 President Barack Obama took what some political experts are saying was a risky move — especially during an election year — and voiced his support of same sex marriage. Like the issue of legalized abortion, same sex marriage is one of those hot button issues that draw a clear division between those who support it and those who oppose it. Republican presidential front runner Mitt Romney said he opposes same sex marriages.
“Well when these issues were raised in my state of Massachusetts, I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name,” Romney said in a published report.
A bill that would have allowed civil unions for same-sex couples in Colorado died in the legislature this week. The president’s public endorsement of homosexual marriage followed a vote in North Carolina where constituents came out in favor of a ban against same sex marriage. North Carolina is now America’s 31st state to enact legislation against it.
In a prepared statement, the president said he was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer regarding same sex marriage.
“I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry,” the president said. “I’ve always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. I was reluctant to use the term marriage because of the very powerful traditions it evokes. And I thought civil union laws that conferred legal rights upon gay and lesbian couples were a solution. But over the course of several years I’ve talked to friends and family about this. I’ve thought about members of my staff in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships that are raising kids together. What I’ve come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, and the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens. So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.”
The president also said that he respected the beliefs of others and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines but he said that he believed that in the eyes of the law all Americans should ne treated equally and no federal law should invalidate same sex marriages in a state that enacted it.
Reverend Clarence James, a Black minister based in Chicago said he definitely believes the president’s move is going to hurt him among African-American voters, many of whom oppose same sex marriage.
“Many of us oppose this in every form and may decide to vote against the president because of this,” James said. “From a medical and psychological point of view homosexuality is a mental illness; for male homosexuals anal sex is medically dangerous. The president is coming at this as a civil rights issue but there is no correlation even though the homosexual community is trying to make it one. The Civil Rights Movement was about freedom and equal rights, this is a moral issue. For the president and other elected officials it’s easier to go along with popular opinion rather than to do what’s right.”
But some members of the African-American clergy have a different point of view regarding this issue. They believe the African-American community should find ways to address same sex relationships and that there can be reconciliation between sex and spirituality.
“If every gay person in our church just left or those who have an orientation or preference or an inclination, or a fantasy, if everyone left, we wouldn’t have — we wouldn’t have a church,” said Bishop Carlton Pearson who heads Chicago’s New Dimensions Ministries in a published report. “Homophobia is hardly unique to the African-American community. It’s a social malady that’s due largely to the influence of fear based-theologies, particularly fundamentalist Christianity, Islam and Judaism, all of which grow out of the Abrahamic tradition. The African-American church has traditionally used a kind of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ approach toward homosexuality.”
Dr. Janice Hollis who heads Progressive Believer’s said the African-American community should look at the president’s record not just on this issue but on others and determine if the quality of their lives has improved.
“I think it’s an insult for the president to intellectualize on morality as if the Church doesn’t already have a mandate from God on this,” she said. “This is a political move and even though he may not see it, he’s only a fleeting moment in history; God has always been there. I think the president is promoting a way of life that deters people away from the Word of God.”
Reverend Bill Owens, a minister with the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and who is based in Memphis, Tennessee, said there’s no doubt that the president’s endorsement of same sex marriage is going to hurt him among Black voters.
“Absolutely it will and especially among the Black churches where the conviction against same sex marriage is so strong,” Owens said. “I think many Black Christians feel somewhat betrayed by the president on this — this is something that Black churches have always stood firmly against.”
While Democrats — who far outnumber Republicans in Philadelphia — held court at a gala at the ballroom of the Warwick Hotel to rejoice President Barack Obama’s re-election, the reaction 15 blocks east was more subdued.
“Congratulations to President Obama and the Democratic Party on their victory,” said John Featherman, a Republican who ran against U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and lost. “The American people spoke, and I urge my colleagues to respect the will of the people. Differences that Republicans have with Democrats should no longer be met with obstruction.”
Featherman attended a Republican watch party on South Street Tuesday night, it was a group made up of what he called “loyal opposition” — Republicans from Philadelphia who have split with the party’s traditional leaders. Both sides agreed to a truce during the presidential election.
On the other side, Calvin Tucker, a Black Republican, speaking Wednesday, also congratulated the president.
“Hopefully, we can now get about the business of addressing some of the major issues that confront the nation and Philadelphia,” he said, adding that he too, would like to see the GOP embrace African Americans.
“What we have to do is engage the African-American community in a broader discussion about the issues they’re confronting,” Tucker said. “We’ve got to not be seen as the party who is not receptive to the big tent. If we do, we’ll have some success in the future.”
Featherman and the loyal opposition gathered in a second floor room at Paddy Whacks Pub at Second and South streets where about 125 Philadelphia Republicans watched the returns come in. Members of the city’s Grand Old Party gathered in knots near the bar and the buffet, steaming along the back wall, grazing on hors d'oeuvres and cocktails as overhead television sets carried the election results.
At least five flat screens — all turned to Fox News — carried election news to the faithful.
At 9:15 p.m. when the network projected that Obama had carried Pennsylvania, few people seemed to notice. There was a notable lack of enthusiasm, summed up by one woman as she filled her plate at the buffet.
“I don’t think tonight is going to be very exciting,” she said to the man next to her. He nodded in agreement as they meandered off to a table.
Featherman noted that many in the room were lukewarm in their support of Romney. As an example, he said he supported Ron Paul in the primary.
“That crowd was not an ordinary group of Republicans,” he said. “We tend to be more Center City professionals and once we register the numbers, we’re not going to spew hateful kinds of responses. Many of those people did not support Romney in the primary, so I don’t think they had much emotion invested in Romney.”
That 84 percent of Philadelphians had supported the Democrat was unremarkable.
But, outside the city and region ,the race had become a nail-biter.
By 10 p.m. with 56 percent of the state’s votes counted, most media outlets, including the New York Times and CBS News, trumpeted Obama’s win in Pennsylvania and the 20 electoral votes it gave the president.
Pennsylvania’s highest ranking Republican refused to concede anything.
“There’s a long way to go,” Gov. Tom Corbett told the Associated Press, waving away the party’s loss in Pennsylvania.
He would be proven wrong shortly after that statement.
In Philadelphia, on Election Day, party officials vigorously defended its prerogatives — suing to have a mural depicting Obama painted on the wall of the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School polling place covered up, and fighting to make sure minority inspectors were allowed in all polling places.
The congenial crowd at Paddy’s clung to the hope that Romney would somehow garner the 270 electoral votes needed to win the contest. But, with most of the voting behind them, that hope consisted mostly of glancing up from their drinks more frequently.
As the clock approached 10:30 p.m., many news outlets showed Romney pulling ahead with electoral votes 158 to 147. Fox defied the trend and reported both men in an electoral tie 163 to 163.
Chatter in the room increased, momentarily.
But California and its 55 electoral votes remained uncounted. None of the states of the far west had been counted.
At 11 p.m. western returns started to come in. Fox reported that California and Washington had backed Obama, netting the president 67 electoral votes.
By 11:19 even Fox was giving Obama 268. The crowd at Paddy’s thinned.
Early Wednesday morning it was clear that the president had won with 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 206.
“I’m hoping we can put aside the rancor, and let the president and Democratic Party try to speak for the American people,” said Featherman on Wednesday morning.
Results tallied Tuesday are preliminary — the count only becomes official in Pennsylvania only after the state Department of State certifies the results, a process that can take several days.
The Republican presidential candidates continue to reveal themselves not to be fit for the most powerful position in the world.
Front runner Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is a serial flip-flopper. Businessman Herman Cain is dropping fast after allegations of sexual harassment and after his stumbling responses to basic questions on foreign policy. Former senator Rick Santorum is way too angry and too socially conservative. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is also too extreme and too loose with the facts. Texas governor Rick Perry is awkward and inarticulate in debates.
Texas congressman Ron Paul and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman will never be accepted or trusted by most of the Republican Party because they do not always follow the party line.
The failure of these candidates is one of the reasons why some Republicans have desperately turned to Newt Gingrich, the 68-year-old former House of Representatives leader who is now rising in the polls.
Gingrich is rising because many Republicans refuse to accept Romney as their nominee to challenge President Obama. Romney’s frequent change in positions causes many conservatives not to trust him.
But Gingrich is a questionable choice for anyone to put their trust in. He is a man full of contradictions. His multiple marriages and extramarital affairs make him an unlikely presidential candidate for a conservative party that espouses family values.
Gingrich was fined $300,000 for giving misleading information to investigators during a congressional ethics probe. In 1998, facing legal challenges and ethics questions, he decided not to seek re-election.
In addition to the contradictions in his personal life and ethical problems, Gingrich has contradicted himself on policy.
It was revealed this week that Gingrich received $1.6 million from consulting contracts with the mortgage agency, Freddie Mac, from 1999 to 2008.
Gingrich had criticized Obama in 2008 for accepting campaign contributions from executives of the federally backed mortgage companies Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. He suggested that Obama should return the contributions he had received from the two mortgage giants.
As usual, Gingrich does not see the hypocrisy of his sweetheart deals.