Opinion: Barack Obama benefits from key backing in North Carolina

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The bulwark of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in, for her, must-win Pennsylvania has been the unstinting support she’s received from an array of established politicos -- especially Gov. Ed Rendell, Rep. John Murtha, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl (subject of a Washington Post profile Wednesday, which takes note of his 10-Diet-Pepsi-a-day habit).

Increasingly, it appears Barack Obama will enjoy a similar advantage in North Carolina, the state he needs to win to help thwart whatever momentum Clinton would gain from a Pennsylvania victory on April 22.

The big statewide race being waged as part of the Tar Heel State’s May 6 primary is the battle for the Democratic nomination to succeed popular, but term-limited, Gov. Mike Easley (also a Democrat). Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue (pictured at left) and state Treasurer Richard Moore (below) are trying mightily to differentiate themselves in the minds of voters. But on this they agree -- Obama is their choice in the party’s presidential contest.

Perdue, in fact, felt compelled earlier this week to spotlight her previous endorsement of Obama, sending mailers to voters showing the two of them together. Moore, meanwhile, is running a television ad that notes he was the first gubernatorial contender to back Obama.


When the furor over Obama’s preacher, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, erupted a few weeks back, one poll showed that what had been a solid lead for Obama in North Carolina had essentially evaporated. And around that time, Clinton dispatched one of her top ground-game specialists, the appropriately named ‘Ace’ Smith, to the state.

But since then, several surveys have shown Obama opening up a wide lead in the state -- indeed, in some of the polls, his margin is of blowout proportions.

Neither Clinton nor Obama, understandably, have yet to personally focus much on North Carolina. But their most formidable advance guards -- their respective spouses -- have.

Bill Clinton stumped in the state for a day last week, and he returns there for a couple of events Friday evening and five on Saturday.

Michelle Obama spoke at North Carolina State University in Raleigh on Tuesday and drew a crowd, to say the least. Officials estimated it at close to 6,000 -- an audience, according to the campaign, that was the largest for her ‘that did not involve an appearance with celebrity Oprah Winfrey.’

Once the Clinton campaign more fully engages, the North Carolina race almost assuredly will tighten (much as Obama seems to have narrowed the gap in Pennsylvania). Still, barring unforeseen circumstances, he should add North Carolina ....

to his win column. Which would put him where’s he been before -- in position to deal a devastating blow to Hillary Clinton’s prospects.

The other state with a May 6 primary is Indiana. Although it borders Obama’s home state of Illinois, the Hoosier State’s demographics are more akin to the Clinton strongholds of Ohio and Pennsylvania. And the few recent polls conducted in Indiana have contained good news for her.

The Clinton camp already has started spinning the state as tough turf for her because of its proximity to Illinois. But a double loss for her that day should significantly increase the ‘time to drop out’ chorus that she’s been trying to silence.

-- Don Frederick

Photo credits: North Carolina lieutenant governor’s office (Perdue); North Carolina Democratic Party (Moore).