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WILMINGTON, N.C.–Two weeks before his momentous Democratic National Convention appearance in Denver, presumptive presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama knows he is in the fight of his life with GOP rival, Sen. John McCain, in their intense battle fo

WILMINGTON, N.C.–Two weeks before his momentous Democratic National Convention appearance in Denver, presumptive presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama knows he is in the fight of his life with GOP rival, Sen. John McCain, in their intense battle for the White House.

After a barrage of negative attack ads that questioned the Illinois senator’s experience and patriotism, and likened his celebrity to that of fluff princesses like Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton, Obama is counting on a 50- state strategy to force McCain to spread his resources.

That means going toe-to-toe with the Arizona Republican in so-called GOP-leaning states like North Carolina, which the Obama campaign has designated as a top tier target they intend to take from the Republicans this presidential election.

While North Carolina remains very much a Democratic state in terms of electing its governor and state legislature, the Tar Heel state hasn’t been won by a Democratic presidential candidate since a little known peanut farmer and governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, took it in 1976.

The Obama campaign says it plans to change that paradigm and bringing more eligible Black voters into the process will be key.

There are 56 million unregistered voters nationwide, 32 percent of the total eligible voter ranks, the Obama campaign says. Of that number, eight million are Black, which is also 32 percent of eligible African American voters.

Democrats don’t want to repeat the Black voter shortfall they had in the 2004 presidential elections when Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry tried to unseat incumbent Republican President George Bush.

Because the Black vote in key regions underperformed based on what its potential was, battleground states like Ohio, Florida and Virginia were lost to the Democrats by single digits ranging from two to eight percent, primarily because of unregistered voters.

Part of the strategy in turning states like North Carolina from Republican red back to Democratic blue for the presidential contest lies in a full-court press to bring new voters into the fold.

Michelle Obama, who hopes to become the first African American first lady of the United States, says a much better job must be done to get all eligible Black voters not only registered but educated on the issues, and then mobilized en masse to the polls on what some have already begun calling “O-lection Day.”

Referring to Sen. Obama’s impressive 14- point victory over rival Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., with 91 percent of the Black vote in the May 6 Democratic primary, Michelle Obama observed, “North Carolina provides an example of how the African American community can make a fundamental difference in the race. The effects of Black vote in North Carolina on the primary race was amazing.”

She continued, “It’s not just about registration, but we have to make sure that people understand why their vote matters, and what’s at stake in this election. We need people to understand the disparities not just at the economic level, but also in health and education… you name it. And I can guarantee you that our efforts aren’t just limited to registration.”

The Obama campaign recently announced a new initiative to increase Black voter participation in states with significant African American voting populations.

Called The Barber and Beauty Salon National Voter Registration effort, the strategy targets perhaps the one institution where African Americans historically have come together not only for good grooming, but to discuss and debate the important issues of the day.

Calling them “a source of empowerment for the African American community,” senior Obama advisor Rick Wade said that just as during the successful Democratic primaries, Obama campaign voter registration efforts will now center in Black barbershops and beauty salons.

Obama campaign workers would come to the shops to run a video on Sen. Obama’s vision for America and also register voters there as well.

Wade says the Black Press, and specifically Black newspapers, will be key in communicating the Obama campaign message.

“During the primary and certainly during the general election, we value the role of the Black Press,” Wade told The Journal. “And we will continue to do that as we move forward.”

Another strategy to excite the Black vote for Obama in November is to have highly visible African American involvement in the upcoming Democratic Convention in Colorado beyond just the entertainment.

Having numerous speakers, representing all strata of the Black community, especially young people, address the nation from the convention podium, would send a clear message to the community that not only do they have a presidential nominee who may indeed continue to make history but also that they have a place in the Democratic Party.

In the end, the Obama campaign says, mobilizing the Black vote like never before in history will be the key to putting the first African American president ever in the Oval Office.

Special to the NNPA from the Wilmington Journal

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Copyright 2008 NNPA. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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