It is a proposition that was quickly dismissed by political scholars and analysts, including some members of Cain’s party. Although he has done better than any other black Republican presidential candidate in terms of attracting support, few believe Cain could snare a sizable number of black voters in a general election, especially against President Obama.
“If he’s talking about 41 percent of black voters in the Republican primary, he might be right,” Michael Dawson, an African American political science professor at the University of Chicago, said with a chuckle. But in a general election against President Obama, who got 95 percent of the black vote in 2008 and remains popular among African Americans, Dawson said Cain “would be lucky to get 10 percent” of the black vote.
Besides being remarkable for its optimistic electoral calculation, Cain’s claim is unusual because he has made no special effort to appeal directly to black voters. If anything, the candidate has offended and outraged some of them with some of his comments and behavior.
Early on in his campaign, Cain, 65, described his own black experience as “authentic” compared with Obama’s biracial heritage and upbringing in Hawaii and Indonesia. He was roundly condemned by Democrats and liberals for saying black people had been “brainwashed” into sticking with the Democratic Party. He has at times appeared to be dismissive of the notion that racism still exists and has defended white tea party activists, who are among his most ardent backers, against accusations that they are racist.
J.D. Gordon, spokesman for the Cain campaign, said the candidate stands by his prediction that he can woo black voters in a general election.
“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.”
Raynard Jackson, a longtime Republican Party activist and consultant who is also African American, was incredulous.
He questioned whether Cain had African Americans in senior positions on his staff to help develop a strategy to win the black vote.