(MT. HOLLY, N.C.) — President Obama’s 13th official visit to North Carolina, a key swing state, is set against the backdrop of a frustrated electorate whose support will likely be the most difficult for Obama to recapture in November.
Obama won North Carolina in 2008 by the narrowest margin of any state – just 14,000 votes, or 0.3 percent. But his standing among voters in the state has been slipping.
A new Elon University poll of Tar Heel State residents shows Obama’s job approval rating is underwater, with just 45 percent giving him a thumbs-up overall and fewer, 43 percent, giving him the same for his handling of the economy.
A majority – 51 percent — disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, a not unsurprising figure given that North Carolina’s 9.9 percent unemployment rate was the fifth-highest in the country in December, according to the Labor Department.
“His electoral future in the Tar Heel state is anything but certain,” said Mileah Kromer, a political science professor at Elon University and director of the school’s poll.
The Obama campaign has nine offices open across the state, recruiting volunteers, organizing canvasses and registering voters for the fall. Aides say added spotlight on the state with the Democratic National Convention planned for Charlotte in September will also help raise Obama’s profile.
First lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have also made recent trips to the state to meet with supporters and raise cash for the convention as well as the 2012 campaign.
But in spite of the push, even some Democrats are publicly skeptical of Obama’s claim to North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes.
Obama “will probably lose North Carolina,” former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean told The Nation last month. Dean added, however, that he thinks Obama will still pull off a narrow re-election.
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