Still riding high after President Barack Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech, a group of young delegates walked outside the arena in downtown Charlotte Thursday night practicing their “fired up, ready to go” chant.
But as bleary-eyed delegates make their way home Friday -- the same day August jobs figures painted a troubling economic picture for the Obama campaign -- the task before them is great: after the convention hype, they must mobilize their base, register voters and make sure people show up on voting day or cast ballots in advance polling in battleground states key to the President’s re-election.
“I just don’t want people to go to sleep,” said North Carolina state representative and convention delegate Garland Pierce, speaking outside the entrance to Time Warner Cable Arena, where Mr. Obama was about to speak last night.
Many delegates, he said, viewed former President Bill Clinton’s speech the night before as having effectively “clinched” the contest for Mr. Obama. But Mr. Pierce, an African-American legislator, said that – although Mr. Clinton delivered a strong speech – it was a mistake for Democrats to fall in to such thinking.
Standing next to him is Earline Parmon, also an African-American convention delegate as well as a candidate in November from Winston-Salem for the North Carolina House of Representatives. She’s getting more attention than her friend as they stand near the fast-food line up at dinner time in Time Warner Cable Arena. It is her giant hat that everyone wants to photograph.
Both say winning the Tar Heel State will require a lot of hard work to achieve an African-American vote turnout similar to 2008. They don’t sound optimistic.
Voter surveys will show if the Obama campaign enjoys any bump in the polls. One speech is unlikely to change the dynamics of what has been a deadlocked race.
North Carolina is a state that candidate Obama carried narrowly four years ago. Mr. Obama edged Senator John McCain by half a percentage point, or 15,000 votes.
Chatting with one of the convention volunteers at the entrance of one of the gates in to the arena is Gus Frank, tribal chairman from northwest Wisconsin and member of the Potawatomi tribe. He praised Mr. Obama for meeting all the leaders of America’s 560 Native American tribes once a year – something no other president has ever committed to.
Mr. Frank says one week before voting day his phone will start ringing off the hook as members of his tribe consult him about the presidential candidates. There are members of the tribe executive who support Mitt Romney, but people lean to Mr. Obama. “For Native Americans, President Obama is more favourable,” says Mr. Frank, who has met the President several times.
Wisconsin is another battleground state that Mr. Obama carried in 2008. Mr. Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as vice presidential nominee is expected to help his chances of carrying the state in November.
There are 11 tribes in Wisconsin numbering about 50,000 people, says Mr. Frank. Right now, he says the Wisconsin contest is a “toss-up.”
Native Americans in Wisconsin have not been hard hit by the downturn, in large part he says, because of the tribe’s casino operations which have resulted in an education trust fund worth $3.25-billion (U.S.).