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Will black voters give Obama what he needs in Southern swing states?

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“The question is what’s the dropoff across the board?” she adds. “Will Republican turnout be less anemic than Democratic turnout? If everybody is upset in equal proportions, it’s a wash, but there’s a chance that might not happen, meaning one group is more enthused and, thus, more effective. That’s the difference between winning and losing elections.”

What Obama has done for blacks

The president’s supporters argue that Obama’s record makes it clear that he has worked for black advancement, as he promised.

His signature health-care law will boost the plight of poorer blacks, they say, and his support for public service jobs in the stimulus bill also benefits the community. (According to the University of California, Berkeley’s Labor Center, 21 percent of black workers are public employees.) Middle-class tax cuts, too, have helped black families as well as white.

And, says Professor Gillespie, likely black voters do not fault Obama for the poor economy, but but the blame instead on what they see as obstructionist Republicans trying to undermine the president at all costs.

“I’ve heard black people say the president would do more, but ‘they’ won’t let him,” says Carol Swain, a Vanderbilt University professor who specializes in evangelical politics, and who is herself African-American. “They believe that if he’s reelected he’ll do more for them.”

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