In 2008, Kenneth Price, a lifelong Democrat, was proud to support Barack Obama in his historic quest for the White House. Price, who is black, even volunteered for the campaign.
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Price became disillusioned when the president abandoned his push for a public insurance option in his health care bill and extended the George W. Bush-era tax cuts.
When President Obama embraced same-sex marriage in May, "that was the last straw for me," said Price, 52, an ordained minister who owns a Cincinnati business and technology consulting firm. He decided to boycott the Nov. 6 election.
But watching the vice presidential candidates discuss abortion in their debate, Price had a change of heart. "We've had 54 million babies murdered in this country," said Price, referring to the number of legal abortions since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. "The Lord spoke to me in a very clear way."
This year, he will vote for Republican Mitt Romney.
The idea that black voters will desert Obama in meaningful numbers is unthinkable to most political observers. But in Ohio, whose voters will probably determine who lives in the White House for the next four years, a question flickers like a tiny flame of hope for some Republicans: Could a small number of black voters, sufficiently angry or disappointed with the president, be persuaded to vote against him? If so, could that make a difference in the outcome?
"Put it this way," said Leonard Hubert, 59, a black lifelong Republican from Granville, near Cincinnati, and a member of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. "They are less enthused and energized about Obama. Some are going to vote for Romney and some are going to not vote at all."
Just about everyone who follows politics in Ohio thinks there will be a drop in African-American support for Obama, who earned 96 percent of the black vote here in 2008. The question is, how much?
"I think it would be in the narrowest sense a victory for the Romney campaign if he could hold President Obama's take of the African-American vote in Ohio to 90 percent," said former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who is African-American. That could mean tens of thousands of votes, a sliver of the total, but potentially crucial in a tight contest.
Still, many black conservatives said they were frustrated at what they thought was a missed opportunity. While the Democratic Party takes the black vote for granted, they say, the Republican Party assumes it is unobtainable.
"The marriage issue, the life issue, the fact that black unemployment is still double, even in Ohio," Blackwell said. "There's a collection of issues that have fed discontent and provides an opportunity for swinging 6 percent."
It's clear that things are different from four years ago.
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SOURCE: MedCity News