Unprecedented black voter turnout was a huge component of Obama's victories in 2008 and 2012. Per the chart below from the New York Times, after running in the low-to-mid 50% range for decades, black voter participation surged to over 60% for Obama in 2008 and 2012, the highest ever recorded.
Meanwhile, black voter turnout in the midterm elections remained fairly constant through 2012 indicating that people were really just showing up to vote for Obama and not necessarily because of a new level of political engagement overall.
So, the question is, should Hillary expect the same level of unprecedented black voter turnout that Obama was able to garner? Apparently, her campaign is not convinced and that's why, according to Leslie Wimes, President of the Democratic African-American Women Caucus, they're in "full panic mode."
According to the numbers, Hillary has every reason for concern. Per Politico, in 2008 and 2012, Obama received 95% of the 1.7mm votes cast by black voters in Florida. Unfortunately for Hillary, a recent poll from Florida Atlantic University found that she is only polling at 68% among black voters while Trump is polling at 20%. Now, if you assume that black voter turnout drops just 5% in 2016 and that Hillary's support drops from 95% to 70% that could cost her over 500,000 votes in a state that Obama only won by roughly 75,000. When factoring in the higher support for Trump this could swing the overall Florida race by 7 points...not a good sign when Obama narrowly won the state by less than 1%.
And, at least according to the president of the Democratic African-American Women Caucus, this math has the Clinton campaign in "full panic mode." Per Politico:
"Hillary Clinton's campaign is in panic mode. Full panic mode," said Leslie Wimes, a South Florida-based president of the Democratic African-American Women Caucus.
"They have a big problem because they thought Obama and Michelle saying, 'Hey, go vote for Hillary' would do it. But it's not enough," Wimes said, explaining that too much of the black vote in Florida is anti-Trump, rather than pro-Clinton. "In the end, we don't vote against somebody. We vote for somebody."
All of which has left the Clinton campaign scrambling to garner support from African-American voters who are uninspired by her candidacy. As such, her campaign has called in the big guns to help rally support in Florida. Bill Clinton, once nicknamed the “first black president,” has been enlisted to conduct a North Florida bus tour on Friday. Meanwhile, Barack and Michelle Obama are also expected to campaign in Florida at least twice before Election Day. Michelle has even recorded an ad that’s currently airing on Florida radio.
But it may not be enough as black Tallahassee Mayor (and Clinton supporter) Andrew Gillum admitted that "it's hard to recapture" the level of support that Obama received from black voters in 2012.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, one of Clinton’s highest-profile black leaders in the state, acknowledged that he saw “varying levels of enthusiasm” for Clinton at a recent event. Though he said “it’s hard to recapture that level of enthusiasm” Obama enjoyed in 2008, he’s confident young black voters will show up to the polls for Clinton.
“While I’d love for them to be excited when they show up to the polls,” citing his own excitement about what Clinton’s policy agenda can offer the black community, “my first job is to make sure they get there,” Gillum said.
Meanwhile, the lack of excitement is "worrying" Henry Crespo, president of the Miami-based Florida Democratic Black Caucus, who said that “No one is writing songs for Hillary. Obama had will.i.am. Hillary has nobody.”