Black Voters Can Save the Senate

nw2_0180_copy__medium.jpg All eyes are on Georgia, where Michelle Nunn’s Senate bid is a key to Democrats keeping  control of the Senate. The peach state is now America’s new political battleground along with  other Southern “states of influence.” If Democrats want to win there, according to PowerPAC  political strategist Kirk Clay, they will have to have a laser focus on turning out the Black vote.

To maintain the majority in the Senate, Democrats have to win in  three key Senate battleground states. “Create a firewall of voters of color,” Clay emphasizes, “and Democrats will win.”

Don’t Campaign Like It’s 2010

“If Democrats want to avoid the wave of 2010 that led to a Republican-controlled House, they have to replace the expected decline of white progressive voters with a surge of voters of color. They can’t allow African-American voter turnout to drop 3-5% in places like Georgia and win,” comments Clay who has been advising campaigns for nearly two decades. “We need to lace up our boots and fight in new ways.”

Four years back the Democrats tried to win without consistently engaging voters of color and the 2010 election results were dreadful. For example, this strategy produced 1,276,478 fewer Georgia voters in 2010 than 2012. This contributed to Republican Governor Nathan Deal winning by 53% and the 8th Congressional district changing from Democrat to Republican by just 10,520 votes. Lastly, the GOP gained two seats in the Georgia State Senate and nine seats in the State House.  

Today, Republicans control both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, 9 of the 14 Congressional seats, the governorship, and both state legislative bodies.

Heavily Invest in States of Influence

Conservative candidates salivate over low voter turnout. To counteract that, Clay argues that Democrats should invest heavily in turning out communities of color in “states of influence” that have major Senate battles – states like Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina that are not yet majority people of color but have enough diversity to change the election.

Georgia’s Future is Multiracial

More than 37% of Georgia’s registered voters are Black, Latino, and Asian, up from 32% just four years ago. By this November, there will be over 100,238 registered voters of color in nine important state house districts. Only 26% of Latinos in Georgia are eligible to vote but Latinos will account for 52% of new eligible voters in 2016.  

Georgia is a case study in the changing population and changing politics. In the 2012 election, people of color in Georgia were the driving force behind President Obama’s garnering 46% of the Georgia’s vote. Insiders like Clay know the state is turning blue.

Based on Clay’s analysis, a Democrat in Georgia can successfully win a bid for U.S. Senator with support from just 35% of the white vote, with voters of color bringing in the win.

So what should be the Democratic Party game plan in 2014?

Send in the President

President Obama could rally the base of voters of color that propelled him into office. Clay stresses that POTUS has the power of the bully pulpit and with that comes the unique ability to change lackluster local news coverage. He goes on to say “Air Force One should touch down in any state or district the president won or was close in 2012 -- this will excite voters and increase turnout at the polls.”

Alex Sink’s unsuccessful Congressional bid in Florida is a case in point. The President won that district and could have campaigned there on her behalf. She only lost by 4,000 votes.

Use Social Media to Full Effect

Big turnout for the Democrat means getting younger voters engaged.  Twitter and Instagram are effective in reaching voters, a point he discussed in this month’s #GA123 conference. Those at the conference examined how social media and traditional get out the vote tactics impact turnout rates in the black and brown communities.

“We have the secret to higher voter turnout for 2014,” Clay adds, “ And in Georgia we are taking the lessons of social media very seriously for the election this year.” In his view, technology will increase our ability to energize our voters and win.

Micro Target Like Nobody's Business

Data on who votes and eligible voters, connected with community groups on the ground will make the difference. Clay crunched data and used “predictive modeling” to identify eligible voters like inactive Latinos in Georgia that can register, engage and get to the polls. The key, Clay says, to winning elections is to close the gap between the population of eligible and likely voters. 

So there is a path for Democrats to hold on to the Senate, and that path goes through communities of color. Starting with the Black vote in Georgia, Democrats should embrace the new reality and invest in those most loyal to progressive principles.

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