Now that we are just two months away from the presidential election, Barack Obama needs to increase his outreach to black voters.
People probably think what's the point, he's got that demographic in the bag. However, as poll numbers indicate, he doesn't have such a wide lead overall, making this an election where a handful of electoral votes could decide our next president.
Over the summer, I have seen President Obama appear at events that have targeted Asians, Latinos, and women. At the same time, he has sent VP Joe Biden in his place to major speaking engagements in front of black audiences including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
A key reason why Obama needs to increase his outreach to the black audience is because he came out and said he supports same-sex marriage. It's surprising he would skip the chance to talk to black audiences after such a historic proclamation, as he knew this move would turn off some parts of his black support base that tend to be more conservative on social issues.
Perhaps this is why he chose reporter Robin Roberts as the first reporter to share his views with. “Many of them are not coming at it from a mean-spirited perspective,” he told Roberts. “They're coming at it because they care about families and a bunch of them are friends of mine – pastors – people I deeply respect.”
But the gesture didn't appease black pastors. In fact, they are furious. In August, Rev. William Owens, head of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, called Obama “Judas” at a press conference, adding that the black community felt betrayed. The group launched a campaign asking black voters not to support Obama until he stops supporting gay marriage. Rev. Owens claimed to have the backing of 3,700 black clergy and said the organization was predominantly Democratic.
Meanwhile, Obama's rival in the election, Mitt Romney, who is against gay marriage, has made multiple attempts to reach out to black audiences – despite being booed on one occasion.
He walked away from a critically panned appearance at the NAACP convention this year, but he was confident he would at least get some votes from the community. This assertion was supported by the fact that his team brought its own “black VIPs” to the convention so he would have a cheering section.
As Obama assesses his outreach priorities he should ask himself if the few blacks who will support Romney might just be enough to tip the scale in his rival's favor.
Virgil Dickson is the public affairs/healthcare reporter for PRWeek. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.