As Race Tightens, Clinton Campaign Is Counting on Minority Support

David Weigel, Washington Post, October 31, 2016

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Following the latest FBI inquiry, which has dominated news coverage for days and has been described as a potential lifeline for Republican nominee Donald Trump, Clinton’s campaign is counting on its organization more than ever to revive the coalition that twice elected Barack Obama.

In places such as Michigan, that means turning out minorities in big numbers to overcome Trump’s advantage among white voters. The trend in early-voting returns has been both encouraging and worrying for the Clinton campaign: Enthusiasm among Latinos appears to be up, in some cases considerably, but African Americans are turning out in smaller numbers than they did with Obama on the ticket.

That’s the picture in Florida. Early returns show a boost in turnout in heavily Latino counties and a decline in largely African American ones. In a state such as Nevada, where Democrats are relying heavily on Latinos, early returns show they are voting in similar numbers as in 2012, boosting Democratic chances. But in battleground states such as Ohio where Democrats are counting on African Americans to put them over the top, they could be in trouble if blacks stay home.

Polling shows a similar story. Clinton maintains a large lead among nonwhite voters in the Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll, but by a smaller margin than Obama did. In polling since Oct. 20, Clinton has led Trump by more than 3 to 1 among all nonwhites (69 percent to 19 percent), compared with President Obama’s margin of 80 percent to 19 percent in 2012.

Moreover, nonwhite voters are more united by their strong dislike of Trump than positive views of Clinton–only 39 percent have a strongly favorable view of Clinton, while 68 percent have strongly unfavorable views toward Trump.

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In closer states, Trump’s campaign is working to soften enthusiasm for Clinton among young black voters. One TV ad plays a clip of Clinton, then supportive of a new crime bill, referring to a group of young black offenders as “super-predators.” That two-decade-old quote–even after an apology–has dogged Clinton with some Black Lives Matters activists. Trump has also sought to dampen enthusiasm by casting life in black communities as something akin to apocalyptic.

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In North Carolina, where Democrats and civil rights groups won a high-profile lawsuit against Republican-backed voting restrictions, the early look is mixed. Total black turnout has fallen 17 percent from its 2012 level, but Democrats point to a shrunken number of early-voting locations to claim that they are on track. At the polls, the voters who are showing up said they feel an obligation, if not passion.

“It’s not like four years ago when we knew we were going for Barack Obama, no ifs, ands and buts,” Sunia Wilson, 38, said after casting a ballot at the Chavis Community Center in Raleigh. “This year it’s like, ‘Hmmm. I don’t know.’ But I’ve got to vote.”

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