Could Herman Cain win over black voters in a general election?

Nov 29, 2011

Herman Cain's turn atop the polls in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination captured the attention of journalists and pundits and sparked excitement among grass-roots conservative activists. But is it really possible that he - a black man who overcame poverty in the segregated South to become a wealthy entrepreneur and front-runner in the GOP race - would be the one to bring African American voters back to their original political home?

Some political experts say no, but chat with Tara Wall as she discusses why she thinks black opinion leaders have not given Herman Cain a fair hearing and why black voters should not put all their faith in the Democratic Party.

Read: Cain's assertion that he could win over black voters is dismissed by analysts

Good afternoon. Tara Wall here. Thanks for joining today's chat on Herman Cain, the black electorate and his campaign. Should be an interesting discussion. Fire away with your questions.

I am a black person. You apparently are a black person. I research candidates before I vote. You, hopefully, research candidates before you vote. Under what premise do you assume the right to tell me who I SHOULD vote for? Because we are the same race? Does that mean that my expectations for political candidates must match yours to be valid? BTW, are you often asked to convince Huntsman voters who are Mormon that they SHOULD vote for Romney? Why not?

I think we should all be educated about who we vote for before we cote for them. I am not telling anyone who to vote for. What I am saying is that before black voters, urban radio and Democrats malign and dismiss a black candidate because he's a Republican, listen to what he is saying and then decide.

In this current political climate, Mr. Cain could not win over black votes in a general election?

All things being equal, and before the most recent allegations, there is opportunity for a GOP candidate black or otherwise to garner enough of the black vote to win. 30-40% is unrealistic but also unecessary. All they would need is roughly 14% of the black vote. George Bush received 11% in 2004. Michael Steele, when he ran for Senate in2006, received 22%.

What impact will the latest allegations against Cain have on his general election chances?

I think the tide has certainly turned for Mr. Cain and it is unfortunately going to have an even more negative impact on his campaign. The allegations, whether you believe them or not have been a hugh distraction and his response to them problematic.

NONE of the Republican candidates have yet to address issues that are important to the black community...such as education, crime, employment, discrimination; NONE of the Republican candidates have held rallies in the inner cities to canvas for votes; NONE of the Republican candidates have even CONSIDERED black people as constituents; NONE of the Republican candidates, particularly Herman Cain, have come to the inner cities to ASK for our votes. Sincwe the GOP has persistently neglected the black constituency, the simple question is: Why should we vote for you?

Actually, this is not true at all. When I was at the RNc from 2004-2006, Mr. Cain, along with a number of black and white prominent Republicans crossed the country went into the black community, in pivotal states with a message of economic empowerment. It just wasn't covered by the media the way the Jesse Jackson's and Al Sharrpton's are. I was there, I witnessed and can tick off a number of other examples. I have young black conservatives who come up to me all the time. GOP agenda: Education - charter schools and choice. Economics - small business support, lower taxes for working and middle class. Less government. More money in the pockets of taxpayers. That's part of the the general theme.. can the GOP do a better job of getting the message out, always. Can, we as black folks do a better job at listening, absolutely.

What films did you make and win awards for? Documentaries?

I won two PR News awards in 2010 for producing corporate web documentary videos. I won two National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) awards in 1997, 1998 for my documentaries on race and racism.

The stats are true about George Bush & Michael Steele but they where not running against Barak Obama. I am not a Democrat or Obama supporter Tara, but the masses of black people do not feel Herman Cain. I see the responses on facebook & in my interaction with black folks tells me he would not get even above 5% of the black vote in a general election. There premise would be when has come down to the hood & talk to the brothers & sisters about issues affecting Black America. I have not seen him hanging out in a barber shop, Barbeque joint or fried fish joint talking with the folks.

The numbers are representative of what can be done with an effective machine and strong effort by the GOP. Yes, Cain (on a good day) would have hurdles yes, but for the right candidate, with the right backing and support, it is "do-able." President Obama's support has dropped significantly, he's vulnerable and I have interviewed a number of disenchanted Democrats and even Republicans who voted for Obama. And again, the GOP would not need to even break 20% of the black electorate nationally to beat him. The question is whether the GOP would put the money behind it.

John McCain received the same amount of African American support that Republican David Duke received. Until the GOP stops its dalliances with racists and bigots in this country it will never garner any significant African American or any minority support. The ghosts of states rights and Lee Atwater still haunt your party. When will the GOP admit to its onerous past and accept personal responsibility for it? The Democrats have reconciled their past....the GOP simply denies the facts of history

It is too easy to always dismiss Republicans as racists. Get over it. There are racists on both sides. In fact it was the GOP chairman (Ken Mehlman) who apologized for the party's past and "reconciled." Let's get beyond the name calling and debate substantive issues. No one party has all the answers. We, as black folks, have been taken for granted by one party for far too long.  Both sides should be courting and actively working with minority voters. 

With a black family in the White House being an "example" for black america to emulate? How can black conservatives do a better job of pushing a conservative worldview to black families? Also, Tara do you think the black church has lost its edge in the black community amid the Eddie Long & Henry Lyons scandals as well as the income gap among these mega pastors & the laypeople?

I think rebuilding the black family and issues of educational choice, health initiatives, employment and even race are issues that conservatives should not be afraid to tackle and find inroads for bipartisan efforts. Our churches are a central party of the community. People such as Sen. Jim Talent and Bill Frist, are examples.. as are a host of others. Black conservatives, frankly, shouldn't be afraid to speak out, be active, get involved and demand more of the party.

But why would the GOP support Cain over any of the other Republican candidates?

I am not saying that they would.

In your estimation Tara, how would Rep. Allen West or Rep. Tim Scott do in a general election again Obama? Could you see them getting at least 10%-13% of the black vote? Also, what up & coming black democrat would keep the black vote at 90% or higher if they were to run for POTUS?

In my view, you would need a few variables: 1) EQUAL air time in mainstream and urban radio for the black Democrat and GOP candidate 2) a well organized machine (donors and dollars) behind him/her

In 1964 it was Senator Everett Dirksen (R) of Illinois who helped LBJ get the civil rights law passed. LBJ said, "there goes the south," for the Democrats. Nixon created the Southern Strategy which pointed out to white southerners that Democrats supported Black civil rights. And there went the south. Since that was successful the GOP has moved from that message but why would black Americans vote for a party that won the south by dissing the law that gave them rights and talking up white empowerment?

A majority of Republicans supported the Civils Right. It was a Democrat who put the National Gurard at school house doors to prevent black kids from entering after desegregation. And the first Civil Rights Act was actually enacted after Reconstruction when all black elected officials were Republicans. Let's give the complete historical picture, not piecemeal. To my earlier point, both sides have culpabiilty when it comes to race. Let's stop fixating on it and find policies that add value and offer solutions to the disparities that exist in the country.

The only way a Republican would get Black votes is TO LET BLACK PEOPLE REGISTER. Registering to vote should be easy, but Republicans make voting for minority and poor people nearly impossible.

Wrong. Voter fraud and voter disenfranchisment are wrong period. Both sides have been guilty in one way or another. It is easier now to vote than it ever was.

"Equal air time"? Does that mean you want to bring back the fairness doctrine?

It means radio hosts and online reporters shouldn't be telling their audiences to go and vote for one candidate over the other, for starters.

What he is saying is trying to justify sexually harassing his employees and cheating on his wife. I'd heard enough, thank you!

I will say, have said and written, that Cain's initial reaction and response to these claims, whether true or false, were dismissive and unacceptable. Workplace discrminiation among women is real and should be taken seriously I think before this latest accusation he tried to correct that, but at this stage it has all become a distraction and his campaign should have been better positioned to deal with a national race and his character issues.

Thank you all for your questions. Please feel free to continue the conversation on my blog or on Twitter: @taras2cents.

In This Chat
Tara Wall
Tara Wall is Founder and President of PTP, LLC and PTP Studios multimedia communications consulting firm, film, video and web content production house. A national political analyst, video blogger, award-winning broadcast journalist and filmmaker, Wall is a 20-year media and communications industry veteran. The former corporate communications executive of a Fortune 500 healthcare company, Wall was Deputy Editorial Page Editor at The Washington Times, a CNN Political Contributor for the 2008 presidential election, headed communications at departments within HHS, DHS and the RNC and worked as a Metro Detroit newscaster and talk show host for over a 12 years. Storytelling is her passion, new media is her canvas, clients are her inspiration.

Visit Tara's video blog.

Tara Wall will release "Souled Out: The Documentary" in mid 2012, which is an account of the GOP's past, present and future with black voters.
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