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The race factor in this year’s elections

BY Domenico Montanaro, Simone Pathe and Rachel Wellford  April 14, 2014 at 9:23 AM EDT
Attorney General Eric Holder told the audience at the annual National Action Network convention in New York April 9 that he and the president had faced "ugly and divisive adversity." Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images

Attorney General Eric Holder told the audience at the annual National Action Network convention in New York April 9 that he and the president had faced “ugly and divisive adversity.” Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • The race factor – Why Obama, Holder, Clinton are speaking out
  • Study finds whites vote Republican when told of demographic changes
  • Rand Paul going Sister Souljah
  • Hillary Clinton being vetted like it’s 2015

The race factor: Last week, we noted the importance of women in elections and why Democrats were targeting them. Today, we look at the race factor and the importance of minority voters. The man in charge of trying to get Democrats elected to the House, Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was asked on CNN how much race motivates the Republican base. “Not all of them, no, of course not, but to a significant extent, the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism,” he said. “And that’s unfortunate.” Greg Walden, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, called the comments “wrong and unfortunate,” citing instead “executive overreach” for the virulent opposition from the conservative base to the Obama administration.

Speaking out: President Barack Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder — the nation’s first black attorney general — in a speech before Al Sharpton’s National Action Network last week said he and the president had faced “unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive adversity.” Mr. Obama, for his part, speaking before the same group Friday, said voting rights had become more “threatened” today than at any time “since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago.” Even former President Bill Clinton, aka Bubba himself, called out the Supreme Court for its ruling rolling back parts of the Voting Rights Act. “We all know what this is about,” Clinton said, adding, “Is this what Martin Luther King gave his life for?”

How have they voted? Part of the Democratic alarm bells is because of what an important pillar minority voters are to Democratic electoral prospects — and how poorly Democrats have fared with white voters, a group that continues to show up in stronger numbers in midterms. Latinos and Asians are growing rapidly in the U.S., and African-Americans continue to vote overwhelmingly Democratic. But whites, especially in midterms, outpace their population at the polls. Democrats generally need to get above 40 percent with them to fair well. Whites comprise 63 percent of the country, but in 2012 made up 72 percent of the electorate. Democrats got just 39 percent of them, a historic low for a Democrat to win with. (Mondale got 34 percent, but was blown out). In midterms, whites make up an even higher percentage. In 2010, when Republicans won the House, whites were 77 percent of the electorate, and Democrats got just 37 percent; in 2006, when Democrats took control of both chambers, whites were 79 percent of the electorate, but with the backdrop of the Iraq war, Democrats were able to pull off a near-split with 47 percent. Blacks are 13 percent of the population and were the same share of the electorate in 2012, but in 2010 dropped to 11 percent. Hispanics are 17 percent of the country yet made up just 10 percent of the voting populace in 2012 and were an even lower 8 percent in 2010. Asians are 5 percent of the population but made up only 3 percent in 2012, and 2 percent in 2010.

Factor those numbers out to what they mean to some key Senate races this fall:

chart (1)

PERCENT MINORITY
Georgia: 45 percent (31 percent black, 9 percent Latino, 4 percent Asian)
Louisiana: 40 percent (32 percent black, 5 percent Latino, 2 percent Asian)
Virginia: 36 percent (20 percent black, 8 percent Latino, 6 percent Asian)
North Carolina: 35 percent (22 percent black, 9 percent Latino, 3 percent Asian)
Colorado: 30 percent (21 percent Latino, 4 percent black, 3 percent Asian)
Arkansas: 26 percent (16 percent black, 7 percent Latino, 1 percent Asian)
Michigan: 24 percent (14 percent black, 5 percent Latino, 3 percent Asian)

Us vs. Them: Speaking of changing demographics, a new study by researchers at Northwestern University finds that when whites are told about racial minority groups potentially becoming a majority of the population in coming years, they are more likely to vote Republican. Chew on that… By the way, with Congress out on recess for the next two weeks, Democrats will be working to paint themselves as the “fair shot” party.

2016 – Rand Paul going Sister Souljah: GOP hopefuls got an early chance to test their messages for retaking the White House this weekend in New Hampshire. The Freedom Summit, sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and Citizens United, drew a wide swath of today’s conservatives, from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to Donald Trump. But Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., stole the show. Paul tapped into one of the party’s most deep-seated problems: expanding their tent. “The door’s not going to open up to the African-American community, to the Hispanic community, until we have something to offer,” he said. He urged the party to take note that minorities are overrepresented in American prisons. But mention of the more establishment-backed Jeb Bush’s line last week that illegal immigration comes from “an act of love” generated boos from the crowd. In Iowa, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., spoke Friday night at the GOP spring fundraising dinner about uniting the party, but notably, he did not meet with any state activists during his trip. … In the week ahead, former Sen. Rick Santorum is addressing two Charleston GOP groups in South Carolina Monday, while Cruz heads to The Citadel Tuesday for a Free Enterprise Foundation dinner. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks about the legacy of the Civil Rights Act Thursday at the University of Minnesota.

2016 – That’s why they’re here: On the Clinton beat, Rosalind Helderman examines Hillary Clinton’s mutually beneficial relationship with Boeing. It’s the kind of vetting story that reads more like April of 2015, not 2014. … Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is earning his fundraising chops traversing the country — speaking in Wisconsin on Saturday and headed to Kentucky for Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes on Thursday. He’ll also soon be in Florida, Michigan, Maine and Pennsylvania.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Trivia Question: Who else did Booth and his co-conspirators plan on killing that night? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer @NewsHour, @rachelwellford, @DomenicoPBS, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out.

LINE ITEMS

  • Obama’s day and week: The president hosts an Easter Prayer Breakfast at 9:30 a.m. ET. For clues about what he might say, look to last year. He noted his trip to the Holy Land and what Jesus means to him as a Christian. On Tuesday, he hosts a Passover seder. On Wednesday, he heads to Pennsylvania for an economic speech in a town that has seen an economic revitalization. He appears with Vice President Joe “Son of Scranton” Biden. On Thursday, the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride rolls to the White House. On Friday, he meets with the head of the American Legion.
  • George Will gives us this briefing book fact: Since 1978, just one Republican has been elected to the Senate from Michigan– Spencer Abraham — and he served just one term.
  • How’s health care playing in Virginia? The Washington Post takes a look and finds Republicans holding their ground against expanding Medicaid.
  • Exit interview: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was interviewed on Meet the Press. On Fox, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., signaled a fight ahead for Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s nomination. The Senate easily confirmed her to be budget director. “There’s no doubt she was a good choice for OMB,” Scott said. “That does not necessarily make her a good choice for HHS.”
  • In spite of the very real opportunity for Republicans to pick up a Senate seat in North Carolina, internal party divisions are creating a complicated and expensive campaign.
  • The Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating how McClatchy news service obtained the classified conclusions of its report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention programs, which they reported on Thursday. Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has also referred the investigation to the Department of Justice.
  • Republicans in Massachusetts have lost 92 straight elections. Could Richard Tisei snap the streak? A new Emerson College poll shows the Republican tied at 44 percent with Democrat John Tierney in a rematch.
  • A U.S. District Court judge in Ohio is striking down Ohio’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.
  • Since opening a one-man lobbying shop in DC nine years ago, Google surged to second in corporate lobbying expenditures — just behind GE — in 2012 and fifth in 2013.
  • Former state ethics commission officials are accusing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie of interfering with the agency, having the director pushed out when she was investigating a member of Christie’s staff.
  • Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, out with a book on how to amend that Constitution, wades into the gun control fight.
  • The reauthorization of the Ex-Import Bank is causing a riff between GOP leadership and House conservatives.
  • Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., announced his retirement Friday. Petri’s retirement is seen as a victory for the tea party, who view the 18-term representative as a moderate.
  • More than two-thirds of Tennessee’s legislators have signed a pledge to repeal the state’s income tax, and now the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity is attacking GOP Gov. Bill Haslam for not signing on.
  • On Friday, we pointed out the importance of Republicans needing to take back the Senate decisively if they wanted to hold onto it in 2016. The New York Times picks up on that.
  • Afghanistan saw the first results from its election. A runoff is likely between Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, both of whom have been moderates and more pro-Western than Karzai of late.
  • Pro-Russian militias overtook some police stations in Eastern Ukraine. The West is placing blame squarely on Russia’s Putin, raising the potential of even stronger economic sanctions.
  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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