It's an odd fight. It seems a lot like an MMA smackdown between two economists kneeing each other in the head over the latest jobs numbers. ("They're down!" SMACK! "Up, I say!" WHACK!)
But aside from the sheer pleasure of watching wonks bloody each other over such a seemingly silly discrepancy (unlike the meaningful reasons for which MMA cage fights are typically waged), there is something worth looking at here.
First, some background:
At the beginning of May, the Washington Post reported that, "The number of black and Hispanic registered voters has fallen sharply since 2008, posing a serious challenge to the Obama campaign in an election that could turn on the participation of minority voters."
Aside from the nice, attention-grabbing dramatic style -- "fallen sharply," "a serious challenge" - - it seemed like an immediately forgettable BWFW story: By Wonks, For Wonks.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the mental trash heap.
Obama's folks came rushing onto the field like a bunch of soccer hooligans, swinging and screaming, and looking for a fight. (Mixed sports metaphors, you say? Just go with it.)
The Obama campaign's Director of Constituency Press, Clo Ewing, fired back on the campaign's BarackObama.com blog.
He said the Post "inaccurately claimed" a drop in the numbers by using outdated statistics.
"The analysis on which The Post based its mistaken claim is fundamentally flawed in several ways," he wrote.
Ouch! Right in the face!
But he didn't stop there. He dragged the whole Census Bureau into it by insisting its Current Population Survey used unsound methodology (Wait a second, doesn't the Census Bureau work for Obama?).
In fact, Ewing wrote, "registration among Latinos and African Americans has never been higher. There are more Americans of both backgrounds registered to vote today than there were when President Obama was elected."
The Post says the numbers are down. Ewing, with the infinitesimally hair-splitting job title (Really? Constituency Press? Could you get any more granular?), says they're really soaring.
The Post used the same type of Census number analysis the William C. Velasquez Institute used to draw a similar conclusion. It found that Hispanic voter registration dropped nearly 5 percent across the country between 2008 and 2010, to about 11 million. Ewing insists Latino registration has risen by 1.2 million since then. The truth is, we may never know. As Byron Tau put it in The Politico 44 Blog:
"Each state has its own voter registration rules - - it's hard to get a clear national picture," Tau wrote. "Independent data has confirmed that youth voter registration has eroded in key states for Obama -- but many states do not necessarily collect the same data for ethnic and racial groups."
But what's really important is the speed and intensity of the Obama campaign's reaction. It's fighting for the Latino vote, and it's apparently ready to fight over how many Latino voters there are, too.
Why? Because the Obama folks don't want anything to dampen Latino voter enthusiasm. They know that if people think they can make a difference, they're much more likely to try to make a difference.
It's kind of the Catch 22 of voting power, a self- fulfilling prophecy, of sorts.
They realize how important we can be in the coming election. They want us to realize it, too. If we don't, we may not bother to vote. And if we don't vote, then we really will be unimportant. Because it doesn't really matter how many Latinos are registered. What matters is how many show up on Election Day.
That's what they're really fighting over.
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison