Black Voters Give Obama Advantage in Virginia

Path to narrow Virginia victory there for Obama

When President Obama won Virginia in 2008, he was the first Democrat to do so since 1964.

But with his approval rating now in the low- to mid-40s, there’s a school of thought that battleground states like Virginia (which he won by almost seven percentage points, 53 percent-46 percent) could be an uphill climb in his reelection bid in 2012. It certainly is likely to be much closer than in 2008.

One reason not to count him out in Virginia is his strength and support among black voters.

“For a Caucasian Democrat in Virginia and North Carolina, it is an uphill struggle, because while they can get their fair share of African-American votes, it is unlikely they could turn out the African-American vote the way in which Barack Obama can,” said Peter D. Hart, the Democratic pollster who conducts the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll with Republican Bill McInturff.

“For a Democratic presidential candidate, in a competitive race, Barack Obama has a better chance than any Democrat -- current or past -- to be able to carry a state like Virginia or North Carolina, due to his strength in the African-American community and their willingness to turn out in large numbers.”

Obama, the first black president, won 95 percent of the African-American vote in 2008 nationally. That was mirrored in Virginia, where black voters make up one-in-five voters and went for Obama by a 92 percent-8 percent margin. That was an improvement over John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, who won 88 percent of black voters nationally and 87percent in Virginia. Kerry lost Virginia 54 percent-45 percent.

And the criticism from some high-profile African Americans, like Cornell West and Tavis Smiley, does not appear to be a widely held view among black voters.

The latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, for example, shows 91percent of African Americans approve of the job President Obama is doing.

Adding to Obama’s overall margin of victory in Virginia, Obama did better with white voters than Kerry. And while polling suggests problems for the president with independent white voters now, because of that solid African-American support, there remains a path for president to win a narrow victory in Virginia.

Domenico Montanaro is an NBC News Political Reporter and an NBC News First Read analyst. Read the national edition of First Read featuring Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Domenico on

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