Thursday, September 15, 2011

Obama is counting on North Carolina

President Obama was back in North Carolina Wednesday, an indication that he thinks he might be able to repeat his win in the state. His 2008 taking of North Carolina, the first Democratic presidential win here since Jimmy Carter in 1976, seemed miraculous and impressive at the time. Repeating that win might truly be miraculous.

North Carolina not so long ago enjoyed its success as a job-creating economic engine. Manufacturing and high-tech companies came here for the state's low taxes and low unionization rates. But since the recession began in 2008, North Carolina has trailed the nation as a whole in jobs and economic stability. The state's downward economic spiral seems likely to continue with Bank of America, headquartered in Charlotte, announcing 30,000 job cuts earlier this week.

Rightly or wrongly (mostly wrongly), the president and his party get blamed for economic misery, so Obama's effort to keep North Carolina in his camp will be especially difficult unless the economy turns around. An economic boost seems unlikely in the next year. Forecasts are for weak growth, at best. The unemployment rate seems likely to remain stubbornly high, and that rate is worse than in recent past recessions because so many of the unemployed are mid-career or older breadwinners. The housing crisis, which sparked this recession, will not be solved soon because so many mortgages are delinquent or in foreclosure.

To win in North Carolina and nationwide, Obama will have to hope for mistakes on the other side. If Republican primary voters nominate a Tea Party favorite who appears to threaten the existence of Social Security and Medicare or who suggests continuing war in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, Obama's task will seem more manageable, though still an uphill slog.

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