Reality Check: Obama's Tarheel Target
Sometimes the spin from the White House is more telling based on what isn't said than what is.
That seems to be the case today, with President Obama's re-election advisers pitching the case that Virginia and North Carolina - and possibly, both - are must-win states for the president. Left unsaid: if those traditionally GOP states are becoming must-win, there has to be some serious atrophy in other parts of the country where Obama has done well.
Obama has plenty of paths to victory without winning the two upper South states - in fact, he could lose North Carolina and Virginia and Ohio and Florida (and Indiana, which they've all but written off) by hanging onto all the other states he carried in 2008.
Those comments read like the White House is losing ground in traditionally favorable places (Nevada? Pennsylvania? Iowa? New Hampshire?), and need to make up for it with strong performances in states that are, demographically, trending their direction.
Don't get me wrong: both states should be aggressively contested by the president's re-election team. I've already written about how important Virginia is for Democrats' prospects in 2012, and likewise, the suburban growth in North Carolina combined with its large African-American population certainly makes it winnable, under the right circumstances.
But by putting the Tarheel State in close to the must-win category, they're unwittingly showing a sign of weakness. To be blunt, even with demographic change and the Democratic convention being held in Charlotte, North Carolina will be a tough state for the president to hold.
Consider: he won the state in 2008 by the narrowest of margins, 14,000 votes - boosted on the heels of historic African-American turnout that's unlikely to be repeated again. White House strategists are already acknowledging that, with the down economy, they're losing ground across the country from their position three years ago. It would be fairly historic for Obama to gain ground in North Carolina (which he essentially needs to win it) if he's regressing elsewhere.
Indeed, recent presidential re-elections show it's exceptionally hard to be losing ground in most states, but gaining ground (or holding one's own) in another one. (Or vice versa.)