The Washington Post‘s Vanessa Williams generated quite a bit of buzz on Thanksgiving Day with the obvious question regarding Herman Cain’s support among African American … oops, sorry Uncle Herman … we mean Black voters in 2012:
Herman Cain’s turn atop the polls in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination captured the attention of journalists and pundits and sparked excitement among grass-roots conservative activists. But is it really possible that he — a black man who overcame poverty in the segregated South to become a wealthy entrepreneur and front-runner in the GOP race — would be the one to bring African American voters back to their original political home?
It’s a solid piece, a bounty of compelling quotes from a number of experts snickering at Cain’s prospects with Black voters. And, we’re certain it made great fodder for a lively Thanksgiving Dinner discussion – with left-overs for the weekend. In the article, Cain spokesperson J.D. Gordon offers “anecdotal” information on his boss’ belief that he’d break off a pretty sizable chunk of the Black electorate:
“He does think he can win a substantial percentage of the black vote — he’s confident he can do that,” Gordon said. “And the reason he thinks that way is the anecdotal information he’s gotten in his travels around the country, the number of black people who have come up to him and the comments they’ve made. I’ve seen that traveling with him in Atlanta and other places.”
A good sign of a campaign in perpetual trouble is when it relies on “anecdotal” information rather than clean polling data. But, is this really a campaign or a bunch of guys sitting at a living room couch like Harold and Kumar and deciding (“dude!”) on a get-rich-quick gimmick? This proves a point some of us have been making for quite some time: Cain never really wanted to run for President. He’s just having a good time, selling books and raising cash along the way (which might translate into a nifty little Political Action Committee that could spread clout in future races – but, again, that depends on how politically sophisticated Cain is and/or wants to be). That sexual harassment allegation bump in the road took a bite of fun out of it, but since he’s falling in the polls – which was the goal all along – his bid and the allegations don’t really matter as much anymore.
Back to the Black voter question: Williams’ piece would have been more complete with some actual polling data. We leave it with a sense that everyone is basing opinions off of what they heard their cousins say about Cain in a Facebook post or during a recent church visit where several seniors sound off about what they think. In an alternate universe, Cain probably doesn’t get that much Black vote, even though his preference for “Black American” over “African American” would resonate with quite a few older Black seniors who didn’t like the Motherland reference to begin with. So, seriously, it’s not inconceivable if Cain picked up somewhere between 15% – 20% of the Black vote in a hypothetical match-up; the bulk of that from those over 60. You’d be surprised. And, it’s not like the man said he isn’t Black; he’s just Republican.
But, for now, where are the numbers? It’s one thing to engage in a lot of preaching-to-the-choir conversation about Cain’s lack of appeal to Black voters, but another if you actually offer something beyond banter on the subject so inquiring Black voting minds can get some better context. In case you missed it – and since we’re obviously not The Washington Post – we answered this question nearly a month ago after looking through a YouGov poll:
While only 74% of African American voters clearly support the President in a hypothetical match-up and 17% are still not sure who they’re voting for (a problem for Obama since he’ll need more), Cain only gets 3% of the Black vote; he gets 6% if the election were held today – compared to 19% – 28% of Latinos. Romney gets 3% of the Black vote, as well.