July 6th, 2007
04:16 PM ET
12 years ago

Battle for Black Voters

WASHINGTON DC (CNN) - The presidential campaign trail is making its way through New Orleans. The top two Democratic presidential contenders made stops there to show their support for a city rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina. They’re also in the Crescent City to reach out to a key part of their party, black voters.

Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama spoke at the Essence Music Festival, which is one of the nation’s top black cultural events. The festival, back in New Orleans after a year away due to the damage from Katrina, has long been a mix of great music and serious efforts towards social change. This year it’s also mixing music with presidential politics.

Obama took center stage at the festival Thursday night. The Senator from Illinois told the crowd that “if all of you are not just ready to rebuild New Orleans, but rebuild the New Orleans all across America, on the southside of Chicago or in New York City, and in Los Angeles and Houston and all across America, I am convinced that we will not just win an election this time out, but more importantly we are going to transform a country.”

Clinton spoke to the crowd on Friday. The Senator from New York also focused her comments on New Orleans, saying, “I believe it’s an American responsibility to rebuild New Orleans, not just one of Louisiana and New Orleans but all of us working together.”

John Edwards isn’t at the Essence Music Festival, but the former Senator from North Carolina kicked off his presidential campaign in the Crescent City, formally declaring his candidacy in the devastated Ninth Ward of New Orleans last December.

So why all the attention to New Orleans?

Because the city’s plight has become a national storyline and because Katrina had a devastating effect on the city’s black community.

Black voters are crucial to the Democratic Party. “Nearly nine in ten blacks vote Democratic, making them the most reliable Democratic voting bloc in the country,” says CNN Pollster Keating Holland.

And they’ll play an important role in picking the next Democratic presidential nominee, especially in the early primary states of South Carolina and Florida.

Senators Clinton and Obama are neck and neck among black voters in the most recent poll. But it’s still very early and many voters haven’t made up their minds yet. We caught up with Renae Bradley outside the Essence festival. She told us that she’s “not feeling that at this point either Clinton or Obama would be that much of a difference.”

One thing’s for sure. Expect the attention by the candidates to New Orleans and to black voters to continue. Next week all of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls will speak at the NAACP convention in Detroit.

- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Carl, Dallas, TX

    I cant' wait for Senator Clinton to break out her Southern accent yet again... only in time to put it away when she travels back out of the south...

    July 6, 2007 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  2. Perry, Dallas, Texas

    I thought the idea of campaigning was to get votes. Sounds kind of racist to try to appeal strictly to "black voters". Isn't it a little condescending to imply that they need a campaign speech directed primarily at "black folk"?

    Maybe hillary can attend a black panther rally and show up in black face and deliver her speech in ebonics. That should get her a few extra votes.

    July 6, 2007 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  3. Marcus, Norwalk, CT

    It's good to see that Black voters are getting the candidates attention, however this is just primary season. It is yet to be seen if the candidates will distance themselves from issues important to the Black community in order to not alienate white voters in the general election. That, historically, is when the "Black vote" is taken for granted.

    July 6, 2007 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  4. James Atlanta, GA

    So, battle, you mean pander...pander to Black voters. We should expect to hear more "Slave Ship" talk from Hillary...and "I've seen the two-American first hand from my Land Rover," from Edwards. Obama could actually have something original to say to black America. Something more beneficial than Jackson and Sharpton could ever say, but he will shirk such speech in order to shore-up what support he can get from Hillary.

    When are we going to stop hearing about the Black vote, Hispanic vote, and the female vote? When are we going to hear about candidates not pandering to stereotypes and trying to win over all of America's vote by being consistent and showing some integrity. Wait, this is politics, what was I thinking.

    July 6, 2007 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Ron Paul says we should all be treated equally, not according to whether we're muslims, christians, jews, white, black, brown, gay or straight.

    What a novel concept.

    July 6, 2007 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  6. Will - Miami, Fl

    When are people going to be called, simply, "voters" or "Americans" rather than "black voters" or "gay voters" or "african-american"?

    We're all AMERICAN VOTERS! Let's vote for liberty and the Constitution! Vote for Ron Paul! (and I'd like to see Allen Keyes as VP)

    July 6, 2007 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  7. cliff, honolulu hi

    The media buzz over the first woman and first mostly black "clean" candidate has reached its peak. It will now slowly wear off and those two candidates will have to have their souls bared to see if their substance matches their politics. Will they still be so admired by the beginning of the primaries? I guess time will tell.

    July 7, 2007 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  8. Rick, Chicago Illinois

    Carl ... speaking of southern accents, how does Dubya get a southern accent when he's born and raised in the Northeast Connecticut/Massachusetts area? Shouldn't he sound more like say, John Kerry, than a cowboy with the IQ of a plant? Can't wait for Dubya to talk about OBGYNs not "being able to practice their love with women" again or talk more about "chicken plucking" businesses in his national speeches! When Dubya passes his first English as a Second Language course, then tell us about Hillary's accent.

    Perry ... maybe if republicans did what Hillary is doing and "appeal strictly to black voters” or just try to appeal to them AT ALL, you guys wouldn't have had a mass exodus of black voters leaving the Republican party for years now.

    July 7, 2007 03:23 am at 3:23 am |
  9. Tricia M Charlottetown PEI

    "When are we going to stop hearing about the Black vote, Hispanic vote, and the female vote? When are we going to hear about candidates not pandering to stereotypes..."

    When America forgets the dark ages of its history and begins living in the future of the multi national ethnic communities of the present. When America finally buries Racism and Hatred for good.

    It's dispicable that a Nation so quick to Boast to the World of it's Power and Freedom is still living in the dark ages of it's race laced history.

    Move on America with the rest of the World...To see in Print the words the 'Black Vote', "Hispanics", et al tells the rest of the World that America is still chained to the past and is far from Free or seeing all citizens as equals.

    Most Nations in our modern societies are Populated by various ethnic groups but rarely if ever, do we hear those Nations single them out in print or speech.

    America would do well to use the example of the rest of the world on ethnicity and multilateral cultures and how to live as equals.

    Truly Disgusting.

    July 7, 2007 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  10. Joshua, Jeffersonville, IN

    As long as predominantly black areas of the country are neglected the way the 9th ward has been neglected by our governement since Katrina, there will of course be a black vote. Ignoring the racial divide doesn't make it go away.
    Your "color blind" society is just another way to protect the "haves" from the "have-nots".

    July 7, 2007 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  11. Tricia M Charlottetown, PEI

    Joshua, Jeffersonville, IN:

    Just to clarify. I wholeheartedly Agree that the 9th Ward has been totally neglected by your Government and I feel it is beyond shameful. I also feel that the neglect by your government regarding the 9th Ward during the Katrina Disaster and after was beyond shameful and sickening. As a Canadian, I was so upset I couldn't continue to watch the coverage...so I can only try to imagine how horrific it was for the people who were there.
    I'm also not saying our Government would have handled it any better as we have our problems with our Government here as well. And many times when we need them most they fail us.

    I also did not mean there shouldn't be a black vote. What I was speaking to were the comments that singled out the minorities, and other ethnic backgrounds as Black, Hispanic, etc. Shouldn't they all be considered as Americans? And as American Votes?
    Why are they being referenced by their ethnic backgrounds in relation to voting? In my mind that is racist.

    I don't believe in ignoring the racial divide and have no desire to make it go away. I wasn't suggesting anyone should.

    I do however suggest that whatever race is being spoken about in America and if they are American citizens, they should be referenced as Americans. To reference citizens and/or people by their ethnic backgrounds is racist and cruel.

    And are you saying there is a separate Black and White vote in America!? I am trully hoping not.

    Neither Our Nation or it's Societies are Color Blind. And I can make that statement with a clear mind and conscience. We have many different cultures in Canada; French Canadians, Lebonnese, African Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Bosnia & Serbia Refugees, Phillipines, Koreans, Pakistanis, and Natives. They all have the right to vote during an election but I've never heard anyone from Canada speaking about the Black Vote, Chinese Vote, or Native Vote, etc., only Canadian Votes.

    We don't disregard or use color or culture to indentify the haves from the have nots here.

    Maybe in America it's the American Way of identying different ethnic backgrounds. But in Canada it is not and those doing so would be emphatically shunned upon and considered as ignorant, inconsiderate and racist.

    July 7, 2007 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  12. Ann Brunswick ME

    Obama is black, he doesn't use blacks for his own ends. There's no contest.

    July 8, 2007 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  13. Carl, Dallas, Texas

    Rick, I'm not republican... thanks for the stereotype. I mean you would laugh, too, after hearing her speech a few months ago that Southpark made fun of... priceless.

    July 8, 2007 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  14. Pete, Olathe, Kansas

    What a novel concept, the all powerful black vote. National black organizations weld little influence over the real black vote. Just ask Bush and Chaney how easy it is to steal an election even with congress and all of the so-called black leadership watching backstage as the wizard lays out in full disclosure how he'll pull the wool over their eyes, not once but twice.

    What an idiot the black American voter must appear to be to other democratic societies whose citizens have died to preserve the integrity of the electoral process. Have not the sacrifices of those who fought in this country for equality at the ballot box been enough to demand more than election year visits to your churches and speeches full of platitudes and lies at your national conventions? Or are you satisfied with your fast eroding third class citizenship? Raise your heads out of the sand. Demand more of your elected officials and you’ll get more. Our requirement of current candidates who are also existing members of Congress ought to be “Impeach Bush, then ask for my vote once you've restored my faith in your ability to think independently”. It is appalling to think we may again replace one scoundrel with another who sat idly by or may have even endorsed the miscreant behavior of another.

    Americans of all stripes, irrespective of race, need to rise up and call for the impeachment of every member of congress and the administration for an absolute abrogation of duty and the continued theft of the American birth right.

    July 9, 2007 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  15. Tricia M Charlottetown PEI

    "Americans of all stripes, irrespective of race, need to rise up and call for the impeachment of every member of congress and the administration for an absolute abrogation of duty and the continued theft of the American birth right."
    Posted By Pete, Olathe, Kansas : July 9, 2007 2:11 am

    HERE HERE !!! Thank you Pete. I Second and Third that motion. And would ask why it hasn't already been done?

    July 9, 2007 09:45 am at 9:45 am |