September 4, 2012
North Carolina looms large for Obama campaign
By Bryn Weese, Senior Washington Correspondent
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Are there 74,000 people in this state who support President Barack Obama?
Probably, but his campaign is reportedly having to bus in black church congregations from South Carolina to fill the Bank of America stadium on Thursday when Obama will accept his party's nomination at the end of the week-long Democratic National Convention.
And with thunderstorms threatening the outdoor spectacle, there is some talk his speech could be moved indoors to a smaller venue.
Conservatives say that smells like a ploy to avoid the embarrassment of speaking to a half-empty stadium.
Either way, full stadium or not, rain or shine, winning North Carolina is a tough row for the Democrats to hoe.
Obama carried North Carolina in 2008 by just 14,000 votes of the 2.2. million cast, and became the first Democrat to win it since 1976.
But four years later, the unemployment rate is still above the national average at 9.6% and the state's Democrat Governor Bev Perdue has become the least popular governor in the country, with a 30% approval rating.
Still, Perdue told CNN Tuesday the state is "equally divided" over whether North Carolina is better now than it was four years ago when Obama took office.
"You've got to remember in 2008 (before Obama was president), people in this community woke up to Wachovia, one of the biggest banks in America, imploding overnight, and our world changed in North Carolina," she said, referring to Charlotte, which is a large financial capital in the U.S. "We didn't just lose hundreds and thousands of regular jobs. We lost financial services jobs, and one of our big, big brands.
"We've struggled and bounced back, and I believe the attitude in North Carolina is one of optimism."
What's perhaps worse for the party in the tar heel state is the Democratic platform approved here Tuesday. It includes support for same-sex marriage, abortion rights and unions, which although not binding on Obama, won't help woo many voters in this decidedly southern (read socially conservative) right-to-work state.
The consensus is Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has to steal North Carolina from Obama if he wants to win the election in November, so as much as this week's three-day Obama fete is aimed at convincing Americans at large he deserves a second term as president, it is also meant to plant the Democrat flag here, too, even as a recent Charlotte Observer newspaper poll shows Romney leading Obama in North Carolina 47 points to 43.
North Carolina is one of about a dozen swing states that could go either way in the presidential election. Ultimately, either the next president will need 270 electoral college votes, which are awarded on a first-past-the-post basis in each state, to win the White House. North Carolina has 15 up for grabs.
The Republicans held their national convention in Tampa, Fla., last week.