Let's be clear: According to Census Bureau estimates, in 2004 African Americans were 17.9 percent of age-eligible southerners (in the 11 former Confederate states) and they were--buckle-up here--17.9 percent of actual voters in 2004. That is proportionate, for starters. But when you consider that blacks are, on average, poorer and/or from a lower socioeconomic station than southern whites, it means that, controlling for status, blacks actually turn out at higher rates than comparable whites. Put another way, a middle class 40-year-old black plumber and husband and father of two is more likely to vote in the South than a comparable white plumber.
And yet, we have to suffer careless assertions like this one from a Mississippi Sstate Rep. Earle S. Banks, who recently suggested to the L.A. Times that "the Illinois senator's presence on the ticket could spur dramatic increases in black turnout. And that, he said, potentially could put Mississippi in the Democratic column for the first time since 1976, when it went to Jimmy Carter."
Oh, please. Which brings me to my second myth-busting point, which I wrote about here at the Prospect long ago: The blacker the state, the wider George W. Bush's victory margins were in the southern states in 2004. Again, this is not because blacks fail to turn out (they do) or fail to vote Democratic (they do), but because the blacker the state the more Republican the white voters vote.
Look: Obama may be able to push up black turnout a bit in the South, but it's already pretty high and the Democratic share is already nearly maximized. The electoral black vote ceiling has not been reached yet, but Democratic presidential candidates are nearly bumping their heads against it already, Obama or no Obama.
I'll add a few more kicks to the mule that Tom has already dispatched. In 2004, blacks made up 34 percent of Mississippi's electorate and gave 90 percent of their votes to John Kerry. Conversely, whites made up 66 percent of the electorate and gave 85 percent of their votes to George W. Bush. Based on that breakdown of votes, blacks would have to make up 47 percent of the electorate in order for the Democratic candidate to win the state. In 2004, there were 1,152,365 votes cast in Mississippi in the presidential election, 66 percent or approximately 760,561 by whites. Assuming that the white vote remains the same, there would have to be approximately 675,000 black voters in order for them to make up 47 percent of the electorate. According to the Census, there were only 698,000 voting age blacks in Mississippi in 2004. Even accounting for changes in population over the last four years, a Democratic win in Mississippi this November would require a black turnout of nearly 100 percent. Even Mike Huckabee doesn't put this much faith in miracles.