Valerie Jarrett, a senior strategist for the Obama campaign, isn’t paying much attention to the bombardment of media polls seven days before Election Day.
What she does care about, Jarrett explained, is voter turnout on Nov. 6 – and the momentum that’s building in the African-American community.
“I believe we will surpass the African-American turnout [from 2008] in 2012,” Jarrett said in an interview with BlackAmericaWeb.com. “There’s a real fear that the hands of time will be turned back if we elect Mitt Romney.”
“People are genuinely scared about the dramatic and draconian cuts to important programs like education,” Jarrett said. “The 2008 election was historic but this time the stakes are much higher in this race.”
With millions of Americans expected to vote early in this election, Jarrett said Obama made history last week in Chicago.
“President Obama is the first president to vote early in a presidential election,” Jarrett said.
Early voting is a key part of the Obama campaign’s strategy – and it appears to be working. Most major polls, for example, show Obama leading Romney in Ohio by five points, in large part because of voters going to the polls early.
Ohio is a critical battleground state – and a must-win for Romney. No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. Republicans dismiss media polls saying Romney is poised to win Ohio because their internal surveys show that Romney is well within striking distance.
So can Obama win Ohio?
“Yes,” Jarrett said. “I have a high degree of confidence about the tidal wave of early voting. People are motivated to vote and they feel a sense of empowerment.”
Jarrett’s appeal for early voting comes as an Associated Press poll shows that racial attitudes have not improved in the four years since the nation elected its first black president.
A slight majority of Americans now express prejudice toward blacks whether they recognize those feelings or not, the poll said. In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey, according to the poll.
“As much as we’d hope the impact of race would decline over time … it appears the impact of anti-black sentiment on voting is about the same as it was four years ago,” said Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University professor who worked with AP to develop the survey.
Meanwhile, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told reporters that most new voter registrants over the past three months are under 30, and nearly all—four in five—are youth, women, African-American or Latino.
“These are all groups that strongly support the President’s re-election,” Messina said. “Voter registration has increased most among Latinos and African-Americans, and two-thirds of those who have already voted are women, youth, African-Americans or Latinos.”
“In-person, early vote is especially popular among African-American voters, and early voting among African-Americans has increased since 2008 in North Carolina and Virginia,” he added.
In a recent conference call with reporters, Jeremy Bird, the Obama campaign’s national field director, said Democrats are building on the historic organization that was put in place in Ohio in 2008, which included 125 Obama campaign offices in every corner of the state.
According to Bird, all public polling shows that the president has a double-digit lead among those who have voted:
• Survey USA found that Obama leads by 19 points (57/38) among those who have voted already.
• Rasmussen, a Republican pollster, found that Obama leads by 29 points (63/34) among those who have voted already.
• The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that Obama leads by 26 points (63/37) among those who have voted already.
• PPP found that Obama leads by 52 points (76/24) among those who have voted already.
“We have a grassroots campaign, a network of supporters on the ground talking to friends, making phone calls, knocking on doors,” Jarrett said. “They [Romney campaign] don’t have the relationships that we have on the ground. In these final days, turnout will make the difference in this election.”
To build on the president’s message of hope for black Americans, the Obama campaign released a new video last week that features Eric Smalls, an African-American student, who thanks to Pell Grants, is the first in his family to attend college.
The video reminds voters that President Obama doubled funding for Pell Grants and increased the number of recipients by over 50 percent, from 6 million students in 2008 to nearly 10 million students today.
“As a result, millions of students are able to better afford college than when the President took office after scholarships and deductions,” according to the Obama campaign.
Many Democrats are concerned that Romney will slash funding to Pell Grants, which millions of African-American students rely on for their college education.
Jarrett, who campaigned in five cities in five days last week, spoke at a senior citizen’s center in Rocky Mount, North Carolina where she learned that some seniors walked two blocks to vote early. In Cincinnati, Jarrett said, many voters spent the night in front of a polling place to be the first group of people to vote.
“In 2008, President Obama won North Carolina by 14,000 votes,” Jarrett recalled. “So when people ask ‘will my vote really count?’ yes it will. And we don’t take a single vote for granted.”