CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Obama's campaign has put a premium on North Carolina, a swing state that turned blue in 2008 for the first time since Jimmy Carter first ran for president in 1976. Placing the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina's largest city was no accident, but the campaign is doing much more to ensure the state remains in Obama's column come November.
Convention and campaign officials on the ground have used the national political event to mobilize volunteers for the president's reelection bid. Members of the public seeking credentials to attend Obama's renomination speech at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday were required to complete at least three different, three-hour volunteer shifts.
The Obama campaign is also reaching out to key constituents, including LGBT voters. Campaign surrogate Stuart Milk, co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation named in his late uncle's name, was called to Charlotte last weekend. The campaign flew him up from Florida to speak at the city's annual LGBT Pride festival.
Milk said choosing Obama this November is a "no-brainer" for members of the LGBT community. He's been inspired by Obama and his administration's work toward equality since first meeting the president three summers ago.
"The first lady said, 'We have a lot of work to do,'" Milk recalled. "And, the president said, 'We will get it done.' Everything we talked about, they've gotten it done."
The Obama administration, Milk said, has been a source of "never-ending and consistent support for the LGBT community." The support isn't just given at home. Internationally, Obama's pro-equality stances have had an impact.
"That often gets lost," Milk said. "When they give me speaking points, they never mention or tout what they've done globally, but I can see the faces of all the young people I've met in Budapest or Ankara and in Istanbul and in El Salvador who hear the president supporting them and they feel connected."
In contrast, Milke said Republicans have offered no reason for LGBT voters to cast their support toward the GOP ticket.
"We haven't even heard anything even remotely inclusive from the other side," Milk said. "We have too many young people who die every day because they don't feel included. We have too many who can't celebrate their relationship and get the full benefits of first-class citizenship because of what this Republican-led Congress has done."
North Carolina, among other states, will be critical to Obama's success, said Milk. In fact, Milk believes the Tar Heel State's electoral votes — 15 in all — will be among several key deciding factors this fall.
"North Carolina is one of the most important states," Milk asserted. "It is a state that was carried by just a few thousand votes [in 2008]. It is critical that we win in North Carolina in order to keep the White House."