Clarence Page / Politics

Romney's 'Zero-Percenters'

A new poll suggests that Mitt Romney may achieve the nearly impossible: He may receive even less than the tiny 4 percent of the black vote that Sen. John McCain won four years ago.

President Barack Obama holds a four-point lead over his Republican challenger Mitt Romney in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released in the final week before the Republican National Convention.

What caught my eye were the numbers reported in key segments of Obama's political base: He led among African Americans "by 94 percent to 0 percent." Say what?

No, that was not a misprint. The poll showed Romney getting zero black support. Nada. Zilch. Bupkis.

Predictably, black Romney supporters and other conservatives were as infuriated as Obama supporters were amused. Faster than you can say "liberal media conspiracy," new Twitter hashtags like #BlackConservativesForMittRomney and #WeAreThe0Percent appeared and percolated with defiant Mitt-love:

"Just call me one of the new breed," said one: "The 'Zero-Con'."

OK, let's pause for a reality check: A zero should not be taken literally to mean that Romney won't get any black voter's vote. The poll's margin of error is 3.1 percent and, let us not forget, 6 percent of the respondents were undecided or had no opinion.

That means Romney's final black turnout still could exceed McCain's, although so far he hasn't done much to improve his chances, in my view. His glaring goose egg among blacks in this poll illustrates the depth of his current dilemma: He's too busy trying to woo his own party's base to worry about reaching out to Obama's.

And that's too bad, in my view. Although you'd never guess it from the overwhelmingly Democratic turnout of black voters in recent decades, there still is a wellspring of African Americans who are more conservative than Obama on many social and economic issues. Many of us still vote for the Party of Lincoln when Republican candidates reach out to us.

The George W. Bush campaign tapped it in 2004 to win 11 percent of the black vote in exit polls, and even higher into the double digits in some key swing states, largely by targeting conservative churchgoers on social issues like gay marriage.

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(c) 2012 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.



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