Attention now swings to the question of who will show up.
Democrat Hillary Clinton’s forces began ringing alarms this week about African-American turnout. The report out of North Carolina: Early voting among blacks is down 16 percent from 2012, and white turnout is up 15 percent, which could be very good news for Republican candidate Donald Trump.
President Barack Obama, who was re-elected by a surge of turnout in minority communities, tried again Wednesday to transfer that energy to Clinton. He went on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” to issue his appeal.
“I’m going to be honest with you right now, because we track, we’ve got early voting, we’ve got all kinds of metrics to see what’s going on, and right now, the Latino vote is up. Overall vote is up. But the African-American vote right now is not as solid as it needs to be,” Obama told his radio listeners.
“If you really care about my presidency and what we’ve accomplished, then you are going to go and vote.”
During her primary campaign against Bernie Sanders in the South, Clinton relied heavily on the black vote, particularly women, to pull her through.
That Trump’s fan club consists so largely of white males is reflected in his rallies, speeches, rhetoric and party tradition.
On police issues, he revives the Richard Nixon “law and order” slogan. In general, he mimics Ronald Reagan’s “Let’s Make America Great Again.”
Whether it is fair to see a racial motive in his debunked drive to show Obama was born in Kenya, his undisputed support among so-called “white nationalist” groups and possible coattails for Senate candidate David Duke, formerly of the Ku Klux Klan, attracted widespread notice.
Turnout depends on some level of enthusiasm, which the latest FBI exploration of Clinton’s emails may only dampen for Democrats.
Part of the battle takes place on television. Trump’s campaign has targeted ads meant to discourage Clinton’s support among young white progressives, young women and black voters.
In turn, it was reported this week that Clinton was airing commercials in Michigan, New Mexico, Virginia and Colorado, reflecting concern about the poll numbers there.
There is an odd psychology to all this. Core supporters for either candidate may not vote if they think their side is way ahead or way behind. So the right kind of distress calls on either side can help.
There are crucial physical logistics at work, too.
Republicans typically raise pre-emptive alarms about fraudulent votes. Democrats try to guard against GOP suppression in cities thick with their party members and minorities.
That’s why the legal push-and-pull about voter ID laws and Trump’s call for volunteers to monitor polling stations draws passionate interest.
Clinton has been widely viewed for some time as having a better get-out-the-vote network than Trump in various key states. But rival Republicans scoffed at Trump’s lack of such an operation during the primaries — and he won anyway, with impressive turnout from party members.