Norm Ornstein’s piece in National Journal today came up during a taping of “Press Pass” for “Meet The Press” this morning. It was one more in a series of pieces on the “Green Lantern theory” of the presidency, which was refined by Greg Sargent and others riffing off Matthew Yglesias’s “Green Lantern theory of Geopolitics” from 2006. “In a nutshell,” Ornstein writes, “it attributes heroic powers to a president — if only he would use them.”
If only Obama had dealt with Congress the way LBJ did — persuading, cajoling, threatening, and sweet-talking members to attain his goals — his presidency would not be on the ropes and he would be a hero. If only Obama would schmooze with lawmakers the way Bill Clinton did, he would have much greater success. If only Obama would work with Republicans and not try to steamroll them, he could be a hero and have a fiscal deal that would solve the long-term debt problem.
Having a little fun with the topic, NBC News’s Kristin Welker asked me what superpower I thought President Obama needed. Before the segment, I thought long and hard about this. The president has tried working with Republicans. He’s tried schmoozing them. He’s tried cajoling them. And he’s tried to giving them space so it wouldn’t look like he was interfering or that Republicans were doing the bidding of the man the base hates. That’s when it hit me.
Superman has superpowers and a great costume (even though it breaks Edna Mode’s “No capes!” rule), but he was no match for kryptonite. What Obama needs more than anything is for the American people, voters, to knock the kryptonite out of the hands of his opponents.
That’s why the president and other Democrats have been warning the base against its traditional midterm complacency. And that’s why I have been urging African American voters in particular to take the 2014 ballot as seriously as they took the ballots in 2008 and 2012. As I said at the release of the National Urban League’s annual “State of Black America” report, while Obama is not on the ballot in 2014, Obama is on the ballot in 2014.
The Post’s Aaron Blake has a terrific piece listing the four ways “black voters could decide who controls the Senate in 2015.” He writes that “[s]ix of the 16 states with the highest black populations are holding key Senate contests in 2014.” The key nugget in the Blake post: “Basically every black voter who stays home is a Democratic voter who stays home,” he writes. “Black voters generally vote more than 90 percent Democratic, so just about every drop in turnout among black voters pretty clearly comes at Democrats’ expense.”
If this is too much theorizing for you, look at what happened in the race for governor of Virginia in 2013, a non-presidential election year. Ken Cuccinelli II, the Republican candidate and the state’s attorney general, was a problematic figure. But there wasn’t universal praise for Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate. Yet McAuliffe was able to eke out a win by almost three percentage points because African Americans showed up at the polls. Domenico Montanaro, then of NBC News, dug into the numbers the day after McAuliffe’s election.
McAuliffe won black voters by a 90-8 percent margin, a similar spread to the 93-6 percent President Barack Obama ran up in the 2012 presidential election in the Old Dominion.
Black voters also voted at a similar clip to the 2012 election. They made up 20 percent of voters, or one of every five people who went to the polls. That’s exactly the percentage of the electorate black voters made up for Obama in 2012 in Virginia.
And I’ll be bold and say that black women put McAuliffe in the governor’s mansion because of what Montanaro found on the gender gap.
McAuliffe won women overall by a 51-42 percent margin. But he lost white women by 16 points (54-38 percent) and won black women by an astonishing 91-7 percent spread. They made up 11 percent of all Virginia voters. Black men voted at a similar margin as women, 90-9 percent, and made up a similar percentage of the electorate, 9 percent.
So if the American people are going to succeed in knocking the kryptonite out of the hands of Obama’s opponents, black voters will have to lead them. All that’s required is casting a ballot.
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