President Obama speaks at the 100th NAACP convention in New York in 2009.

Story highlights

Obama's absence from NAACP convention raises questions

Romney seemed to tweak president during his speech to civil rights group

Experts say Obama can afford to count on African-American votes

There is a risk that taking bloc for granted could result in lower turnout, expert says

Washington CNN  — 

Some African-Americans have watched enviously as President Barack Obama courted other voting blocs critical to his re-election hopes.

The president pushed for repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that barred gays from serving openly in the military and endorsed same-sex marriage; he helped push through fair pay for women; he supported the DREAM Act, which provided a path to citizenship for young adults in the U.S. illegally; he said his administration would stop deporting young illegal immigrants who entered the country as children provided they meet certain requirements.

Given that an overwhelming number of African-Americans consistently support Obama, some have openly wondered if the nation’s first African-American president is taking them for granted. And if he is, is that a risk he can afford to take.

The answer appears to be yes.

Obama won 95% of the black vote in 2008, and polls show he enjoys 87% support among black registered voters versus 5% for Republican rival Mitt Romney.

“Well, I think, he can afford to take black voters for granted,” said Fredrick Harris, a professor of political science at Columbia University and director of its Institute for Research in African-American Studies. “No other constituency gives that large a percentage of its vote to the Democratic Party,” Harris said, adding that blacks have earned a place as the Democrats’ “most loyal constituency.”

Obama camp cites ‘scheduling conflict’ for NAACP convention no-show

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said, “I can certainly tell you that from a practical, political standpoint, [President Obama] probably could afford to take it for granted because once again, he’s going to get well over 90% of the African-American vote.”

Obama supporters have long tried to extinguish the lingering question, pointing to the president’s policies that have bode well for blacks.

But recent events have reignited it.

On Wednesday, Romney appeared to tweak the president’s absence from one of the most high-profile gathering of blacks this election year, the Houston convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People – the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.

“We have to make our case to every voter,” Romney said. “We don’t count anybody out, and we sure don’t make a habit of presuming anyone’s support. Support is asked for and earned, and that’s why I’m here today.”

Romney’s campaign was even more blunt.

Before Romney’s appearance, adviser Tara Wall – herself an African-American – said in a statement: “If elected by a majority this November, President Romney will be a leader to all. Speaking to members of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization and establishing a dialogue with black voters, communicating his record of achievement and solutions for fixing a broken system of unfulfilled promises is paramount