President Barack Obama is testing a much-needed replacement for Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen whose media-magnified death helped spike African-American turnout in the 2012 election.
The new campaign-trail martyr is Clayton Lockett, an African-American who kidnapped four people, including a 18 year-old woman whom he raped and then killed after she watched her grave being dug for 20 minutes.
Obama has the same motive as he did 2012 — boosting turnout of his most important bloc.
One means is the long-standing and widespread opposition among African-Americans to the death-penalty and to tough policing.
Today’s Rose Garden press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave him the opportunity.
He pulled Trayvon Martin into the presidential election by answering a question about Martin at the end of a Rose Garden ceremony in March, eight months before turnout day in November. Today’s answer came six months before turnout day.
The press conference began with a serious, and appropriate question about the main subject of Obama’s meeting with Merkel — the slow-motion Russian invasion Ukraine, which went hot today when Russian-backed forces shot down two Ukrainian helicopters.
But late in the press conference, a French reporter named Tangi Quéméner lobbed his slow-pitch question about Lockett straight towards Obama’s home plate.
“Earlier this week, an inmate died in Oklahoma in what critics have called an inhumane manner because of a seemingly botched execution… does this raise moral questions about U.S. justice and global reputation?” said Quéméner, who is a White House reporter for Agence France Presse.
For Obama, the answer is written in the survey data, which offered him an easy means to stoke the weakening polling support among African-Americans.