The campaign’s decision to send First Lady Michelle Obama, Obama’s most popular proxy, to several historically black colleges in North Carolina over the last few months suggests in part that a campaign that had grown "a little complacent" about base turnout in some states is now focusing hard on the grassroots, recognizing that "African-Americans represent a very important bloc of the base," says Jason Roth, a Jacksonville, Fla., political consultant who served as the Obama campaign's north Florida field director in 2008.
“I think the Obama campaign is sophisticated enough to understand the key to winning North Carolina is the African-American vote,” says Andrew Taylor, a political scientist at North Carolina State University, in Raleigh. “I think they’re really concerned about the fact that there isn’t the kind of energy there was in 2008 … and in a very, very close election that could be critical.”
“We do have to pay attention to the enthusiasm factor,” says Andra Gillespie, an Emory University political scientist and author of “The New Black Politician.” “Turnout is not going to be as robust as 2008, this is no longer about electing the first black president, but it’s also very difficult to tease out where black support is right now and whether or not black turnout is going to be depressed.”
“The question is what’s the dropoff across the board?” she adds. “Will Republican turnout be less anemic than Democratic turnout? If everybody is upset in equal proportions, it’s a wash, but there’s a chance that might not happen, meaning one group is more enthused and, thus, more effective. That’s the difference between winning and losing elections.”