“You didn’t come out here to see me,” she shouted to roughly 100 fans, who snapped photos with their cellphones and had clearly come to see her. “We’re not here for anybody else but Barack Obama!”
DJ Diamond Kuts, whose given name is Tina Dunham, has 93,000 Twitter followers and a devoted audience of mostly 15- to 32-year-olds who appear in droves when she hosts block parties such as the one on a recent Saturdayin this predominantly black neighborhood. That following makes her a desirable pitchman for the Obama campaign in the final weeks of the presidential race, as the campaign refines its effort to thinly slice the electorate and reach every potential supporter.
Dunham, one of dozens of DJs who have been recruited by the campaign to help the president, has begun shouting out to Obama on Twitter, promoting him at local events like this one and talking about him during her Saturday night radio show on Power 99, one of this city’s hottest urban radio stations.
For church ladies, there is the Obama campaign’s “congregation captains” program. For college students, there is Students for Barack Obama. For young adults not on college campuses, like the afternoon dancers here in northwest Philly, there is the weeks-old DeeJays for Obama.
The goal is to appeal to young voters to register and turn out to vote.
“We’re really working to help everyone see themselves,” said Stefanie Brown, the Obama campaign’s black-vote director.
Mitt Romney’s campaign has its own strategy to reach young voters, having created Young Americans for Romney. And GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan recently tailgated with supporters before an Ohio State football game.
It is too early to know whether the DJ strategy will work. And there is the risk of offending supporters by aligning with DJs, who sometimes play music that is profane or that glorifies violence and crime.
But the Obama campaign sees the need to motivate the young people who listen religiously to DJs such as Dunham.
In 2008, the president won voters under age 30 by the widest margin of any candidate in almost four decades — defeating John McCain 66 to 32 percent.Young voters, however, are notorious for not showing up at the polls, and the Obama camp has been dogged by worries that there may not be a repeat of the excitement of 2008.
That’s where Dunham comes in.
“I was always for Obama but when they made me a part of it, I felt like okay, let’s get these teens out here registered to vote,” she said.
DJs’ special status
Anton Moore, a friend of Dunham’s who manages DJs in Philadelphia, said the idea for a network of DJs came to him in the middle of the night. Moore is 26 and an avid Obama campaign volunteer who had seen the president singing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. Moore said he was lying in bed this summer and, at 2 a.m., a thought occurred to him: “DJs for Obama would be hot.”