President Obama knows that he is in a dog fight to extend his stay in the White House in 2012. It is clear that his reelection campaign has been searching unsuccessfully for an economic message, as the NationalJournal’s Josh Kraushaar notes. This is likely to continue, but the fact that his reelection team realizes the president is losing his grip on two key battleground states (North Carolina and Virginia) that he won in 2008, should be seen as a positive sign for the eventual Republican presidential nominee.
Obama’s strategists are raising the stakes in the two battleground upper South states, North Carolina and Virginia.
They’ve never been critical cogs in a presidential strategy. If Team Obama sees them as such in 2012, it suggests the campaign is struggling in states that were comfortably on its side in 2008, particularly those in the Rust Belt.
When I interviewed leading Democratic and Republican strategists about the states toughest for Obama to hold, most were pessimistic about his prospects in North Carolina, a state that he won by just 14,000 votes.
Publicly, his strategists are arguing that the Tar Heel State’s growing numbers of college-educated suburbanites and minorities plays to Obama’s advantage. It’s no coincidence the Democrats are holding next year’s convention in Charlotte.
But if North Carolina looks like a challenge, Virginia looks within Obama’s grasp. Unemployment in the Old Dominion is far lower than most battleground states, and the growth of government jobs in the Washington, D.C., suburbs and a diversifying population play to the Democrats’ favor.
Not everyone on the Democratic side is as optimistic, however. One senior Democratic operative involved with key Virginia races believes Obama would need an African-American turnout close to his historic 2008 levels to win—a tough task in a down economy.
“When folks start to depend on recreating a specific snapshot in time, it is most always a disappointment,” the strategist said.