- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2011

In selecting Charlotte, N.C., as the site of next year’s Democratic national convention, President Obama’s party is upping the ante in a vital swing state and making clear its belief that the campaigner-in-chief can once again make inroads in the South.

The Tar Heel State is one of several traditionally red states — along with Virginia and Indiana — that morphed to blue in 2008 by the slimmest of margins. Even Democrats acknowledge that duplicating those successes in 2012 will require a lot of work.

Mr. Obama has traveled to North Carolina at least four times since taking office, including on vacation, and the choice of Charlotte underscores his team’s belief that he can still compete in much of the broad blue map he painted in 2008.

“I think it makes a lot of sense as opposed to going into the midwest,” said Richard Kearney, director of the School of Public and International Affairs at North Carolina State University. “It’s a very clear symbol of his view that the South is not impenetrable for the Democrats.”

The convention is scheduled for the week of Sept. 3.

Mr. Obama won North Carolina in 2008 by a razor-thin margin of 0.32 percent over Republican Sen. John McCain, buoyed by strong turnout among independents and members of his base, particularly black voters. The political landscape, however, has changed since then as highlighted by November’s election that flipped both legislative chambers in Raleigh from Democratic to GOP control.

Charlotte beat out three other cities: St. Louis, Minneapolis and Cleveland. First lady Michelle Obama announced the choice Tuesday in an e-mail to supporters.

“Barack and I spent a lot of time in North Carolina during the campaign — from the Atlantic Coast to the Research Triangle to the Smoky Mountains and everywhere in between,” Mrs. Obama told members of Organizing for America, Mr. Obama’s grass-roots apparatus. “All the contending cities were places that Barack and I have grown to know and love, so it was a hard choice. But we are thrilled to be bringing the convention to Charlotte.”

Not all Democrats were pleased by Tuesday’s announcement. Rep. Russ Carnahan, Missouri Democrat, called the decision a “huge missed opportunity for the DNC to hold the convention in a state that’s in the heartland of swing states.”

In 2008, Mr. Obama lost Missouri to Mr. McCain by just more than one-tenth of a percent. More recently, state Democrats suffered big losses in November as the GOP held the seat of a retiring Republican senator and longtime Rep. Ike Skelton was ousted after more than three decades in Congress.

In December, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said the road to the White House goes “right through” the perennial swing state.

“Our electoral votes will be even more critical in 2012 than they were in 2008 because traditionally Republican states like Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia are not likely to stay in the blue column,” he said in a statement on U.S. Census figures.

On Tuesday however, Mr. Redfern congratulated Charlotte, calling it a “vibrant and beautiful city.”

In May, the Republican National Committee chose Tampa, Fla., as the site of its 2012 convention planned for the last week in August.

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