DOTHAN, Alabama – One of the key elements for Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Doug Jones’ path to victory on Tuesday will be a high voter turnout in the African-American Community.
That level of turnout, many say, will have to approach what Barack Obama drew in his two successful presidential elections, which won’t necessarily be an easy feat for Jones.
In a piece headlined “Doug Jones Is Counting On Black Voters. They Don’t Sound Too Inspired,” Jennifer Bendery, a reporter for the Huffington Post, questioned if Jones has done enough to inspire that kind of turnout. She explained the black vote would have to be a quarter of the final tally on Tuesday for Jones to pull off the upset.
“Black residents in Alabama overwhelmingly vote Democratic,” she wrote. “They make up about 27 percent of the state’s population; white residents make up roughly 69 percent. For Jones to win, he needs black voters to account for at least 25 percent of the electorate on Tuesday. He’d then need to win support from 36 percent of white voters to hit 51 percent of the total vote.”
It wouldn’t be totally unprecedented. Twenty-five percent would be just under what Obama had in the 2008 presidential election. But as Bendery says, Jones is no Obama.
Jones does have ties to the black community in Alabama. He is known to many Alabamians for his prosecution of Birmingham’s 1963 Sixteenth Street Baptist bombing as a U.S. Attorney for President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s.
Wayne Flynt, professor emeritus in the Department of History at Auburn University, explained the connection but told Breitbart News it won’t be a given for Jones.
“That is because of the prosecution of the terrorist and also his active support of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute,” he said he said of Jones’ ties to the black community. “He really has deep connections to African-Americans and as you well know, the election will basically turn on two things. One will be general turnout and the other will be turnout among African-Americans. And African-Americans generally don’t usually turn out enthusiastically for an Alabama white Democrat.”
One tactic Jones has employed in the late stages of the race has been visits to black churches in not only the urban areas of Birmingham and Huntsville, but others in Alabama’s Black Belt region as well.
However, Flynt said it varies by church as to how much the pastors of those churches urge their parishioners to vote for Jones on Tuesday.
“The answer to that is two-fold,” he said. “It depends entirely on the local pastor. The idea that there’s a monolithic black church and that the black church and the pastors always do this or do that is simply political fantasy.”
Long-time Alabama Education Association teachers’ union pollster Dr. Gerald Johnson, one of the state’s most prominent Democratic operatives, also said getting out the black vote through the church wasn’t what it might have been in the past. He argued other means were necessary.
“It’s much more difficult than it historically has been,” he said in an interview. “The black vote is much like the white vote. You just don’t herd and shepherd and corral them perhaps the way it was at one time. And again, it goes back to money in part as to whether or not either of the candidates can wage an air war.”
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor