In an attempt to stimulate support among his African-American voter base, President Obama spoke directly to community concerns about gun violence, education and employment during a speech before the National Urban League in New Orleans Wednesday night.
While offering prayers for the victims of the recent shooting tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, Obama also mentioned the violence that impacts African-American communities in cities like Chicago stating that, “every day the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theater.”
The speech comes on the heels of a National Urban League report which showed that the president will need to once again mobilize Black voters in record numbers in order to secure the White House.
In 2008, Black voter turnout was 64.7 percent. According to the Urban League’s report, if Black voter turnout dips below 60 percent this November, Obama could lose critical states such North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.
"We wanted to point out that turnout makes a difference, National Urban League president Mark Morial told reporters in a conference call earlier this month. "And that African-American turnout, particularly in a number of states, could make the ultimate difference."
The president’s remarks reflected the Urban League’s sense of urgency as he directly rallied for support by hitting some of the Black community’s most crucial concerns in this election season.
“If we don’t keep fighting as hard as we know how for better jobs and better schools, who will?” Obama asked. “That’s our challenge.”
With the latest Black unemployment numbers soaring at 14.4 percent, Obama reminded voters of his middle-class tax cuts, boasting a tax reduction of $3,600 for the typical family since he took office.
During the speech, the president also announced his plan to launch a White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans that will ensure that African-American youth are better prepared for high school, college and the workplace by coordinating the work of communities and federal agencies. He spoke directly to Black students, demanding hard work and dedication in exchange for the government’s special attention.
According to an Associated Press-GfK poll, Obama carried an 87 percent approval rating among Black voters and 82 percent say they would vote for him.
Obama didn’t touch on states’ voter ID laws, however, a subject many civil rights activists say will be most critical to his performance at the polls this November.
While the numbers show that Black voters undoubtedly support Obama, civil rights groups warn that the rise of repressive voter ID laws may affect how far Black support can take the president, if the new rules keep large numbers of Black voters from ever reaching the polls.
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(Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP)