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“Given we have an African-American candidate and those margins, there’s not much room for movement there. You’re left with what I describe as ‘soft and persuadable white voters,’ ” who make up about 20 percent of the electorate, he said.

At the Roots ‘N Blues ‘N BBQ Festival in downtown Columbia, Mo., on Friday night, Obama volunteers with clipboards were making sure people were registered to vote.

Local surrogates were also on hand to talk up the Democratic ticket. State Sen. Chuck Graham of the Columbia area predicted that record numbers of people will show up at the polls.

“If we get 80 or 90 percent turnout among African-Americans for the first time, I think we could have five-hour lines in St. Louis,” Mr. Graham said.

The numbers will matter here and in battlegrounds Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina. The candidates and some of their Hollywood and rock-star supporters have made visits to those states.

Team Obama has registered hundreds of thousands of first-time voters, who polls show favor the Democrat by a 2-1 margin.

Last weekend in a final registration push in the urban centers of Philadelphia, Miami and Columbus, Ohio, the campaign hosted free concerts with big names such as Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen. Also hitting the campaign trail were Grammy winner John Legend, NBA star LeBron James and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.

The campaign used its text-message service to issue reminders about the registration deadline and will inform supporters about early voting locations and encourage them to go to the polls on Election Day.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week that nearly 40 percent of the nearly 200,000 early voters in Georgia are black.

The cover of the November 2008 Ebony magazine declares, “Why Barack Obama must be our next president.” The article inside asks: “President Obama: What could it mean for Black America?”

It features Mr. Obama saying earlier this year, “The day I become president, the world looks at America differently and America looks at itself differently.”

On Ebony’s cover are Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah and Alicia Keys, who appear together in an online Obama voter registration video.

Black voters interviewed for this story said they were wary of getting their hopes up for an election that could change the lives of the next generation.

A Richmond airport employee said, with tears in her eyes, that her father, in his 60s, is voting for the first time because of Mr. Obama.

Three older women from Oklahoma drove to Denver to witness Mr. Obama’s convention speech in person, recognizing that they could be a part of history. Two of them plan to be first-time voters this fall.

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