By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
With just six weeks (as of Sept. 24) remaining before the General Election on Nov. 8, and the polls tightening nationally, the voter registration, education and mobilization phase of the campaign is well underway by both parties. Polls show that a bout with pneumonia and an inability to connect with Black and White Millennials, the White middle class and an overall bland message, has allowed Donald Trump to close in on Hillary Clinton in the polls, nationally and in several key battleground states both need to win.
A month ago, Clinton had an 8 point lead in Virginia, last week that margin dropped to 3 points. Trump and his GOP Vice Presidential Nominee have been spending a lot of time in the Virginia. Pence was in Williamsburg last Tuesday and one of the candidates will be in northern Virginia in the coming days. President Barack Obama won Virginia twice in his bids for the White House with a sophisticated and coordinated campaign with state and local Democratic races.
Obama did well in the Hampton Roads, even winning GOP leaning Chesapeake. But African-American turnout was the key to his success in the region, the Richmond area and Northern Virginia.
Black voter turnout has also helped Democratic candidates seeking Virginia Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General. Now Democrats are hoping to continue their success at the polls with candidate Hillary Clinton and energizing the Black vote that came out for Obama is being considered critical.
Social media, canvassers beating on doors to connect with voters friendly to the party’s message, weekly education and mobilization events at colleges, and community events and the traditional media buys are part of the upcoming Clinton campaign strategy to hold on to Virginia. Taking a page from the Obama game plan, the Clinton operation has been approaching owners of Black-owned barbershops and hair salons, and they are working college campuses to interact with voters friendly to the Democratic party message.
Locally, a small army of Clinton media and strategists has been slowly working to coordinate their activities with the political actions arm of area NAACPs, civic and faith based organizations and other groups to spur interest in the Clinton message and turnout among the Obama 2008 and 2012 coalition. Also non-partisan groups who support the Democratic party messages, such as the Virginia Bloc, which is attached to the New Virginia Majority, the Virginia Organizing Committee and a coalition under the Divine Nine collective of Black fraternity and sororities, are also involved in the coordinated effort.
Key to local and state wide Democratic efforts are organizations allied with the Democrats such as labor unions, which the party is funneling money to help with mobilization and education. Senator Tim Kaine and his wife have been on the ODU and other Virginia college campuses speaking to huge rallies of mostly students. Democratic party operatives said they are not only seeking to drive up support for the Clinton campaign, but Democrats running first time or reelection to Congress and state House of Delegates and Senate races.
The coordinated campaign is geared to reach out to African-Americans, young and college-educated Whites, Gays, Hispanics and Muslims who made up the Obama voter coalition and helped him win. Yet, Clinton is underperforming among segments of this coalition, especially young ones who do not have a historical or political connection with her such as young White and Black Millennials who are not tuning into the Clinton message as readily as the Democrats would like.
Democrats are seeking to lure these voters from their fascination with Bernie Sanders or any Third Party candidate who may be taking support from Clinton in the polls. October 17 is the last day that Virginians can register to vote. After October 17, both parties will be investing time and money into the Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts, and in the Democratic party’s case, prompt voters, especially the aged, to use absentee voting, the only early voting option in Virginia.
National Democratic strategists are also worried that despite the nasty message Trump projected toward Hispanics, the Clinton team has not done an effective job of reaching out to that group and may see a weak turnout among them, if more outreach is not forthcoming. “They have been slow to gear up, but I have never seen so many resources being put into play for the ground operation in this state for a presidential race,” said one longtime Democratic party operative in the Black community who spoke on the condition that their name not be used for this article. “There are a lot of groups out there trying to help register people and mobilize voters, especially the elderly to assure they can exercise their right to vote.
“Democrats realize how important Virginia will be in the coming election,” said the individual. “Barack Obama is not on the ballot and the Democrats realize they have to work even harder to get African-Americans out to vote.” Only a handful of states will determine who will get the keys to the White House. If Hillary Clinton wins those key 18 states, plus the District of Columbia that Democratic candidates have captured since 1992, she will amass 242 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Add Florida and she achieves her goal to be the first woman president.
If she wins those 18 states, D.C., Ohio’s 18 electoral votes, and Virginia, with 13, she will have the 270 electoral votes needed for victory. New York, California and Illinois are firmly in the Democratic fold, so far as electoral votes, which gives the party an advantage starting out. If Trumps wins the states that George Romney won in 2012, he would muster only 206 electoral votes. Even if he wins Ohio, Florida , Nevada and Iowa, he still only has 265 electoral votes.
So Trump needs to expand the electoral vote map, by capturing several other states which are not competitive to win. But despite being tagged a racist, unstable and not possessing the temperament or smarts to be President, he has managed to get close or even to Clinton in several keys states, including Ohio, Florida and Iowa. If he can win those states, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire, he and Clinton would be in a tie for the electoral vote count.
The House of Representatives would break the tie and there is no sign of Democrats winning enough seats to capture the House come November 8. So Democrats are stepping up their ground operation in states Trump has gained ground. Minus a TV ad campaign, Democrats are stepping up their efforts in North Carolina and Virginia. Democrats even see hope in Georgia, but a sustained ground game is needed to win in that deep red southern GOP enclave.