Those efforts were reversed in 2008 as Obama swelled black turnout and got 96 percent of the black vote against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). It was those high turnout levels that put Obama over the top in two traditionally Republican states — North Carolina and Virginia — and he will need a repeat performance to keep those states in his column this year.
The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll shows a similar margin, with Romney receiving 5 percent of the African American vote to Obama’s 92 percent.
Yet there are signs that some of that support may have eroded, as blacks have faced record-high unemployment — according to the latest Quinnipiac poll in Florida, Obama gets 85 percent of the black vote, down from 96 percent in 2008.
Wall, a former TV journalist from Detroit, acknowledges that making inroads with African Americans will be a challenge but said she senses that some black voters “aren’t feeling it this time” for Obama. They also hope to cause some second-guessing about Obama stewardship of the economy, which could lower enthusiasm for the president.
“There is no chance that Mitt Romney will do any better than John McCain did in 2008,” said Michael Fauntroy, author of “Republicans and the Black Vote.”
“Ultimately, it’s an indirect appeal. It’s about showing a willingness to show concern for all Americans and a way to come across as severely compassionate conservative,” Fauntroy added.
For some, Obama’s recent decision to back same-sex marriage has reframed some of the conversation, especially among black pastors who were among the first group to hear personally from the president, but outreach efforts have been ongoing for months, and campaign aides said they aren’t taking the black vote for granted, even with the overwhelming support.
Wall said Obama’s position on same-sex marriage, while hardly a game-changer, could give African Americans with strong religious beliefs a reason to look at Romney or to stay home. But Romney’s core message, she said, will be about black businesses and the 13 percent unemployment rate among blacks.
“The biggest factor is the economic situation that we, as in black folks, find ourselves in. It’s been horrendous,” Wall said. “All we’re asking is that people at least give Romney a listen.”