Obama Uses Radio to
Court Black Vote in S.C.
As Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama and even Michael Bloomberg appear over the next few days at a National Urban League conference that begins today in St. Louis, they'll be looking to woo influential African-Americans. But the most important blacks in the 2008 presidential process live in South Carolina. And that's who Barack Obama's campaign is targeting with a series of ads that started yesterday and will air on 36 black and gospel radio stations in the state. The 60-second spot, called "It's Time," features an announcer uttering that phrase and then includes statements from Obama's speeches in which he makes explicit racial references, such as "we have more work to do when the black incidences of HIV/Aids & diabetes and every other illness is multiple times higher than the rest of the population" and "we have more work to do when more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America."
South Carolina's primary, scheduled on Jan. 29, could be very significant, as it's the fourth state to vote and because about half of its primary voters are black, making it the first major test of Obama's appeal among African-Americans. Polls in the state, which another candidate, John Edwards, won in 2004, have differed on the exact state of the contest there, but observers say Clinton and Obama are running close. National polls show Clinton and Obama both collecting about 40 percent of the black vote. Obama advisers, while acknowledging former President Clinton's popularity among blacks, think that once black voters learn more about Obama, they'll back him.
"When voters, both black and white, begin to see and know more about Senator Obama and we begin to fill out his profile, they'll move toward him," said Cornell Belcher, one of Obama's pollsters.
Of course, no matter how much either candidate campaigns in South Carolina, voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada will have already cast votes. And this may loom large in the South Carolina results. A recent CNN poll suggests some blacks doubt Obama can prevail in a general election contest. In a recent CNN poll of South Carolina Democrats, 46 percent of white Democrats said Clinton "has the best chance of beating the Republican nominee in the general election," compared to 40 percent who chose Obama. Among blacks, 63 percent chose Clinton, 29 percent Obama. A series of wins in early states could change perceptions about Obama's chances of victory.
--Perry Bacon Jr.
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