Instead, Obama’s key to winning reelection is solidifying his support with college-educated whites, a swing demographic that has been more receptive to his message, along with high turnout among minorities. His key to victory is rallying white-collar professionals in swing-state suburbs, like Fairfax/Loudoun County, Va.; Wake County, N.C.; Franklin County, Ohio; Bucks County, Pa.; Clark County, Nev.—none hotbeds of manufacturing.
(PICTURES: Obama's Aides at White House Press Conference)
3. Fresh fundraising concerns. With a strong connection to the grassroots and expertise with social networking, President Obama’s reelection team mastered the art of hitting up small donors in the 2008 campaign.
But there are telltale signs that the grassroots army that propelled him is in a much less giving mood. It’s not a huge surprise; the bad economy has hit Obama’s small donors too. When you’re having trouble paying the bills, you’re not exactly pining to pitch in hard-earned money to help a powerful president.
A sign Team Obama is looking elsewhere: A Los Angeles Times report that Obama’s reelection team is already asking wealthy donors to commit the maximum $75,800 to the president’s campaign funds.
If Obama’s re-election starts looking more difficult next year, donors may well be inclined to give to the Democratic Senate and House campaign arms, seeing them as the better investment. But if they’re locked in with early maximum donations to the president’s re-election, that won’t be doable.
4. Raising the stakes in the upper South. Obama’s strategists are raising the stakes in the two battleground upper South states, North Carolina and Virginia.
They’ve never been critical cogs in a presidential strategy. If Team Obama sees them as such in 2012, it suggests the campaign is struggling in states that were comfortably on its side in 2008, particularly those in the Rust Belt.
When I interviewed leading Democratic and Republican strategists about the states toughest for Obama to hold, most were pessimistic about his prospects in North Carolina, a state that he won by just 14,000 votes.
Publicly, his strategists are arguing that the Tar Heel State’s growing numbers of college-educated suburbanites and minorities plays to Obama’s advantage. It’s no coincidence the Democrats are holding next year’s convention in Charlotte.
But if North Carolina looks like a challenge, Virginia looks within Obama’s grasp. Unemployment in the Old Dominion is far lower than most battleground states, and the growth of government jobs in the Washington, D.C., suburbs and a diversifying population play to the Democrats’ favor.
Not everyone on the Democratic side is as optimistic, however. One senior Democratic operative involved with key Virginia races believes Obama would need an African-American turnout close to his historic 2008 levels to win—a tough task in a down economy.
“When folks start to depend on recreating a specific snapshot in time, it is most always a disappointment,” the strategist said.
This article appears in the June 29, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily.