Friday, February 25, 2011


By Cash Michaels

            EDITOR - This is part 1 of a multi-part look at Walnut Creek Elementary School, and the other high poverty schools that the conservative-led Wake County School Board will be creating in Southeast Raleigh as it moves forward with its controversial neighborhood schools policy. Studies consistently show black and Hispanic students are relegated to poor instruction, a lack of resources and a second-rate education in high poverty, racially identifiable schools. The property values in neighborhoods with high poverty schools also suffer, as families move away.
            The Carolinian examines the question, “Will all or any of this happen in Wake County?”
           Download the "Make it Happen" podcast on this story:
2-24-11 MAKE IT HAPPEN SEGS 1, 2, 3 - 


            “This board does not intend to create high poverty, low-performing schools in the new zone assignments.”
Chairman Ron Margiotta
                                                      Wake Public School Board
                                                                             July 20, 2010

            Ten years ago, when Wake Schools Supt. Bill McNeal was faced with a handful of what he called “unhealthy” system schools that exceeded the forty-percent threshold in free-and-reduced-lunch (F&R) student population, his plan was simple.
            Supply those schools - designated in other school districts as “high poverty” - not only with the tools, but unqualified support and attention needed to give low-income, low-achieving students every chance to learn, and grow.
            “We made very certain that we chose the right leadership for that school - a strong, effective principal,” McNeal told The Carolinian last fall. “We made very certain that we had the caliber and quality of teachers that we considered to be very effective, and then we put the support dollars there in order to make sure that the children had the equipment; that we had the after-school programs and the before-school programs.”
            “We tried to extend learning for the children to make sure that we made up for what we deemed to be some of the deficiencies that existed in the schools.”
            During McNeal’s 2000 - 2006 tenure, some schools had F&R populations as high as 60 percent, levels that exceeded Wake School Board policy. But the only reason they existed at all was because the school system’s resounding academic success, through its innovative socioeconomic diversity policy (which balanced the schools economically and racially), ignited the kind of systemwide population growth McNeal and his team didn’t have the resources to keep up with.
            Needed additional resources that the Republican-led Wake County Commission Board, at the time, denied the school system.
            So how did these “unhealthy” schools, with high percentages of academically and economically challenged students, fare under McNeal?
            There was “very little” principal turnover, according to McNeal, because the system was responsive to their needs. And teacher turnover in Wake’s high poverty schools at the time was around eight percent, the system average.
            Teacher turnover in neighboring Durham, by contrast, was around 17 percent.
             Academic growth was continually and consistently measured. Student subgroups, like black males, were intensely focused on. New strategies, with teacher input, were devised, and successes were widely heralded to inspire further progress in these schools.
            “We understood that if we did not keep a handle on what we deemed were healthy schools, then we would be looking at teachers moving from certain schools, and not having the best teachers there,” McNeal says. “We were successful.”
            Ultimately, over 80 percent of black students, even some in so-called “unhealthy” Wake schools, were performing at or above grade level on the state standardized tests of the time. And while conservative critics today note that the state end-of-grade testing in math and reading between 2000-2005 was comparatively easy to today’s, out of North Carolina’s 115 school districts, Wake’s students consistently logged the best numbers.
            “It worked for us,” McNeal says, looking back with pride.
            The man who was honored in 2004 as NC Superintendent of the Year,” and in 2005 as the nation’s Superintendent of the Year, refused to allow the schools under his watch to fail, especially the high poverty schools. But when he couldn’t get the kind of resources to adequately keep up with growth and maintain the level of support he knew not only the school system, but its most challenged students needed, a frustrated McNeal left, knowing that things would fall apart fast, challenged students would fall behind, and more high poverty schools would result.
            “Sustained growth over a period of time created mammoth problems [for us],” McNeal said.
            History has proven him correct. From 2006 to the present, Wake Public Schools have fallen behind. Less than 60 percent of economically disadvantaged students are graduating on time. Almost 60 of the system’s 163 schools are classified as high poverty.
            And with an estimated 200,000-student population by the year 2020, growth management, without the necessary resources to adequately deal with, is still the big concern.
            Now, five years later, a Republican-led Wake School Board is doing the unthinkable in the minds of traditional Wake Public School supporters.
            Not only has the board dismantled Wake’s successful student socioeconomic diversity policy in favor of a community-based neighborhood schools plan, but this August, the system is scheduled to open Walnut Creek Elementary School on Sunnybrook and Rock Quarry roads - a new $25 million facility in Southeast Raleigh on 19 acres, with a predominately black and Hispanic student population of 81 percent F&R, and 52-percent low-achievers.
            The board’s Republican majority used its neighborhood schools policy to modify the last year of the previous school board’s three-year student assignment plan. Thus, staff was restricted to populating Walnut Creek Elementary based on neighborhood proximity, not diversity, as was the previous policy.
            According to Tea Party-backed District 2 school board member John Tedesco, this is a good thing.
            "If we had a school that was, like, 80 percent high-poverty, the public would see the challenges, the need to make it successful," Tedesco told The Washington Post in January.
            Tedesco’s remark prompted Comedy Central satirist Stephen Colbert to mercilessly skewer the Republican, quipping, “I think we all know, nothing captures Americans more than concentrating the poor in one location."
            Exactly one year earlier, during a meeting with parents at Combs Elementary in Southwest Raleigh, when asked if he was concerned about the board’s neighborhood schools policy creating more high poverty schools, The Independent Weekly quoted Tedesco as replying, “Not if we have the achievement.”
            And yet, it was just last August, a few weeks after Wake School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta made his infamous, “… this board does not intend to create any high poverty, low-performing schools…” remark, that Tedesco told The Charlotte Observer, “We've been saying the entire time that our system was not going to create any more high-poverty schools.”
            Two weeks ago, at a Southeast Raleigh community meeting about Walnut Creek Elementary, Tedesco told WRAL-TV, “This is where the people live. The kids are here. They are in Wake County. We need to educate them."
            The politics, confusion and rhetoric that has fueled the Wake School Board’s policymaking, coupled with the undeniable fact that there isn’t one public school district anywhere in the nation where a system of high poverty schools is successfully working, is making education advocates like Calla Wright, president of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children, very nervous about the future of Walnut Creek Elementary, and the Wake School Board’s true commitment to it.
            “They won’t be getting the same quality of education that other children in surrounding schools are receiving,” Wright, who would prefer that the board rethink its plan, says. She’s also concerned about what options parents have if they don’t want to send their children to Walnut Creek Elementary. The children there will not have the same enriching experiences as they would in diverse student populations, and Wright worries that this will limit their ability to meet the challenges of a global society as they mature.
The school board voted recently to offer a $7,000 “signing bonus” to the right principal to take the helm, and the board is using other merit incentives to attract committed teachers to the school.
Translation - a brand new and expensive high poverty, low performing school - the very thing Wake School Board Chair Ron Margiotta twice said last July 20 the board “does not intend” to create.
            If by “does not intend,” Margiotta meant that the board would pour resources galore into the startup of Walnut Creek and other racially identifiable high poverty schools the board’s neighborhood schools policy creates, then the question is, “How much and for how long, especially during an economic downturn where the school system is already looking down the barrel of a $100 million budget shortfall for next school year?
            "This is the policy the school board voted on, so this is the reality," says new Wake Supt. Anthony Tata, who dealt with neighborhood schools for the past 19 months as the Chief Operating Officer of the Washington, DC Public School District, considered one of the worst in the nation.
            Community leaders, like Southeast Raleigh District 4 school board member Keith Sutton, aren’t pleased with what the conservative board majority has done, but are trying to meet the challenge head-on to minimize the negatives.
            Sutton says he’s trying to be “proactive and intentional” in making sure that the right principal, teachers and resources are placed in the school. The curriculum and instructional focus are just as important, Sutton adds, with the instructional school day extended by 45 minutes, and tutors from the nonprofit groups lending a hand.
            In short, Walnut Creek Elementary will require a lot of heavylifting, not just on the part of the school system, but the Southeast Raleigh community as well, Sutton says, to make Walnut Creek Elementary successful.
            “But I think we can do it,” Sutton told The Carolinian.
            “If you get in front of it, you can keep those challenges from occurring,” Wake Supt. Tata insisted at the Feb. 11 community meeting.
            That’s the same sentiment the black community had in Charlotte years ago when they were told that they could make the racial resegregation of their once integrated public school system work. The result since has been a plethora of high poverty schools; high teacher turnover; low achievement; a Wake Superior Court judge accusing the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public School System of “academic genocide;” tens of millions of dollars spent, and lost maintaining high poverty schools; diminishing property values; the layoff of hundreds of teachers and staff; and finally, the scheduled closing of at least ten schools in order to save money.
            When the Wake School Board completes it neighborhood schools planning, many say expect much of the same.
“Let’s assume we had the money, we can have high poverty schools and we can put those extra support pieces in, history tells us that never lasts,” former Wake Supt. Bill McNeal told The Carolinian last October. “Pick any school district that’s gone down that path, and pretty soon, the question is asked, “Why should we be spending that extra money over there, and then all of a sudden, that money begins to dry up. It becomes political, and it is the political drumbeat that ultimately ends that practice.”

Saturday, February 5, 2011

CASH IN THE APPLE for FEB. 4, 2011

By Cash Michaels

CHARLOTTE 2012 - This week, history came full circle. The Democratic National Committee, at the direction of the president of the United States, chose Charlotte for the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

            There are a number of firsts with this momentous announcement:
-       the first time since 1988 that the DNC is being held in the South.
-       the first time in history that North Carolina hosts a major political convention
-       the first time that a major political party will renominate an African-American to run for the presidency of the United States
   There is no doubt that there are many more firsts to come with this momentous
event, but this one is ours.
            North Carolina was extremely important to Barack Obama in 2008, giving him the clinching delegate victory he needed to win the hard fought Democratic primary  against then Sen. Hillary Clinton. The president has shown, with his choice of Charlotte, that North Carolina is indeed key to his re-election strategy.
            That means he’ll be pouring money and staff back into the state, not to mention making many visits.
            Congratulations to the Queen City and its impressive young Mayor Anthony Foxx, for the big get.
            More on this in the weeks and months to come.
            “OBAMA IN NC” - Needless to say, the Charlotte DNC news is also great for my film, “Obama in NC: The Path to History.” I’m now able to not only rework the ending of the awardwinning documentary to reflect the Charlotte announcement, thus reinforcing the theme of the film, but now, I can start putting together a sequel, which I can finish by the end of the year.
            And since the film has only been seen once in Charlotte (let alone in that part of the state), that means we can book it ‘til our hearts content in the weeks and months leading up to the convention, let alone market the revised DVD.
            We’ll keep you updated here and on our Facebook page.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH - Have you noticed that ever since we elected our nation’s first black president, forces have really been coming down hard on black folks. The racist Tea Party demonstrations. Radio commentators saying that “Black parents don’t care as much about education as Asian and white parents,” and one of the nation’s top public school systems moving to racially resegregate before our very eyes.
            And now an old new one. A caller into WPTF-AM, Raleigh’s well-established right-wing radio station, saying that “noncaucasians” are the ones most likely to commit voter fraud, thus justifying the move towards voter I.D’.s in the state.
I’m not going to tell you to forget the past, because those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it. But I am going to urge all of us to make no mistake, we are making Black History now, but not the kind you think.
            As a community, if we sit back and allow these forces to continue to turn back the clock and the rights and gains that so many blacks and whites fought and died for over a half century ago, make no mistake, we WILL be history.
            Things are too tough in the nation, and the world, right now, for anybody to think we can all chill out. None of us can, not even our children. We must all be doing our part to stop the push back on our rights and accomplishments. We must make sure that our children know their history, and understand that without their education, they are at the mercy of those who would hold them back.
            And it’s way past time for our community to get its economic act together. Without a solid economic base, we will always be going outside of our community for jobs.
            That puts us at the mercy of those who are invested in destroying our community, and doing away with our freedoms.
            So, as we celebrate the great accomplishments and achievements of our people during this momentous Black History Month 2011, make no mistake at all, it is required of ALL of us to build on that great legacy and fine tradition, and stand strong to defend and preserve all that our ancestors sacrificed for us to have.
            There are those who say they want to “Take [their] country back!”
            I saying that, according to the Constitution of these United States, it was never “their” country in the first place, because our rights come from GOD, not man.
SUPER PITTSBURGH - All of you “cheeseheads” out there, I have a lot of respect for you and your team, the Green Bay Packers. Tough team, with the strong offense. Nothing bad to say about them.
            However, I have to go with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday’s power-packed Super Bowl. This is a team that has shown nothing but heart, drive and skill this season. They put it all out on the field. This team has a strong work ethic. They deserve this chance to prove that they are the most dominant team in NFL recent history.
I think they are going to fight until the last man standing on Super Bowl Sunday, and I predict that this will be just about (notice my qualifier there) the most watched Super Bowl ever.
There, I said it, and I’m sticking to it. The Pittsburgh Steelers will win the Super Bowl.
TWO FILMS - Taking some time this weekend to relax from an ultra busy scheduled, I watched two DVDs I purchased recently - “Mandingo” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
When I was a teenager back in New York, the film, “Mandingo,” was released. Because it was rated R at the time, I was too young to see it unless I took my Mommy.
Trust me, my mother, GOD rest her soul, would have run out of the theater, dragging me with her by my ear.
Starring James Mason, Perry King, British actress Susan George (with a bad set of teeth, I might add), and then heavyweight boxing champ Ken Norton as the strongman slave named “Mede.”
Based on the bestselling book, “Mandingo” is a thoroughly brutal story of slavery that had me going, “What the ….”  Every ten minutes. The way black people were treated in the film was a horror show. This flick, if it did any soft-soaping, didn’t leave out a whole lot.
So this was one of those, “Hated-what-I-saw-but glad-I-saw-it flicks. The images from this film will stay with me for a lifetime.
Then there was “Wall Street” Money Never Sleeps,” the sequel to 1987’s “Wall Street,” both films directed by Oliver Stone.
Both films also starred Michael Douglas as the power-hungry Wall Street broker Gordon Gekko. Douglas won an Oscar in 1988 for basically immortalizing the phrase, “Greed is good.”
No Oscar for Douglas this time, not even a nomination. But he brings back Gekko and all of his shiftiness in  a story that tells us how the 2008 collapse of Wall Street happened. Shia LeBouef costars. The sequel is OK, but the music to is horrible, and the flick ends sappy.
Still, I enjoyed it.
CRISIS IN EGYPT - As I write this Tuesday morning, crowds are gathering in Cairo for a mass demonstration for human rights against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek. The people of Egypt want their longtime leader gone as of yesterday. They want a new government and new vision for the country’s future.
All of that is fine, but it also signals change that the Obama administration may have a hard time believing in. Mubarek has been a good friend to the United States, and a strong ally in keeping the peace with Israel (which is shaking in its shoes right now), and a good partner in fighting terrorism.
Not to mention Egypt manages the Suez Canal, a major shipping channel where American naval and commercial ships go through.
All of that is at risk depending on what happens in Egypt next.
Oh, and did I mention that this has already begun a chain reaction across the Middle East (which, by the way is in Africa, folks). Populations in other countries, like Jordan, are beginning to stand strong for change in their lands.
The upheaval in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East definitely has an impact in the United States. Look for gas prices to spike up another 20 cents or so.
Pay attention to Egypt, folks. Pray for the people over there, and pray that our president can handle what could be an explosive situation just right.
Pray hard!
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my new blog, ‘The Cash Roc” ( I promise it will be interesting.
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association, by Cash Michaels, honored this year as well by NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian your life. Bye, bye.


By Cash Michaels

            While most North Carolinians anxiously expect their state lawmakers to make jobs and an improved economy their number one priorities, Republican legislators have different ideas about what’s really important.
            Like voter identification.
            The GOP-led NC General Assembly, convened a week ago amid a looming $3.7 billion budget gap they have to find ways to close, have made it clear that they have a 100-day laundry list of  “culture war” priorities that are, in their opinion, equally as important.
            Stopping the federal individual mandate that compels people to purchase health insurance, otherwise known in conservative circles as “Obamacare,” was the first bill to fly through committee. The next pressing issue to get the four-alarm treatment is pushing through legislation to require every voter in North Carolina to brandish an official photo identification when they go to the polls.
            The GOP concern - that North Carolina is rife with voter fraud, especially in communities of color, and photo ID’s are the only way to root them out.
            The evidence, according to civil rights advocates like Democracy NC and the NCNAACP, is next to nothing.
            “This is a major threat,” says Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina. “The price involves our friends, neighbors, parents and grandmothers being told that they can't vote. That's an unacceptable price to pay, for no benefit.”
            Attorney Irv Joyner, chairman of the NCNAACP Legal Redress Committee, sees that danger.
            “The voter-ID proposal…has the very real potential of being used in a discriminatory manner and will place an unacceptable burden on people who do have and/or cannot afford to obtain photo-identification,” Joyner, also a professor at North Carolina Central University’s School of Law, says. “People who are too poor to afford this expense or to old or infirm to obtain it will be negatively impacted. For me, the biggest, but not the only, issue is that the exercise of the constitutional right to vote should not be conditioned by a monetary requirement before a person can utilize it.”
            Republicans counter that twenty-states across the US, including Georgia, already have some type of voter ID requirement on the books. Plus, the US Supreme Court has ruled that voter ID’s are acceptable under certain conditions. So if most people already have official photo identification to drive or for social services, why the opposition?
“I understand that point,” Prof. Joyner says. “Their focus is on those people who have photo-identification already. My focus is on the large undetermined number of people who do not have this identification.”
 “{Clearly, the requirement is not a burden for those who have the ID and are willing to show it,” Joyner continued. “For an elderly person, for example, who is infirm and not ambulatory, requiring that person to obtain this ID can be costly and discouraging. The same is true for a poor teenager who is not a licensed driver and does not use or need photo-ID in their daily interactions or a poor middle-age single mother who is receiving state benefits and does not have a bank account or drivers license or even a mature revolutionary individual who just refuses to produce this ID on principal.”
Prof Joyner concluded, “Why do we require them to get this ID just to exercise a right which they have and in the absence of any evidence that fraud in the voter process has taken place? If the person is registered to vote, they have already assured the voter registrar that they are eligible to exercise this right.”
NC Republicans respond to criticisms of their voter ID imitative with a poll. According to a January poll by the conservative Civitas Institute, 96 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of independents and 73 percent of Democrats are in favor of voter ID’s.
            “Research shows an overwhelming majority of voters see photo ID's as a common-sense approach to preventing voter fraud and the U.S Supreme Court agrees with them,” says Francis DeLuca, president of the Civitas Institute.
            But NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber isn’t buying it. He sees this Republican-led effort as another way to both undermine and roll back the civil rights gains of the past fifty years, in this case, using the voter ID law as a tool of voter suppression in black and Hispanic communities of color.
            “They want to pass legislation that panders to old fears and prejudices, “ Rev. Barber said last week, while promoting the upcoming Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly and March on Saturday, Feb. 12th in Raleigh.
            “Voter ID legislation, “Barber said, “is dangerous to civil rights.”
              Data released Friday shows upwards of 1 million North Carolinians do not have photo identification who are of voting age. Names of those already on the voting rolls were compared to DMV records for driver's licenses. Board of Elections officials say that number may drop after close examination.
              Either way, if Republican lawmakers go through with their proposal, they'll have to find a way to pay for it, since the courts have ruled that voter ID's must be free to citizens.
            Editors note - for more information on HKonJ5, go to, or contact your local NAACP chapter.


By Cash Michaels

             It is the only Southern state that offered Barack Obama One Stop/Early Voting and Same Day Registration, enabling his 2008 presidential campaign not only to attract a treasure trove of new voters for both the Democratic primary and general election that year, but bank those ballots to eek out a razor slim 14,000-vote victory over Republican rival John McCain.
            The Southern state that uniquely offered a dynamic mix of a sizable black vote, coupled with a large college-aged and professional voting bloc that, when turned out, would neutralize the strong conservative base in an otherwise “red” state.
            And on May 6, 2008, it was the state that ultimately clinched the Democratic Party’s nomination for president for the young senator from Illinois, and propelled him into history.
            Those are just three of the many strategic reasons why Barack Obama, when given a choice by his closest political advisers, picked his favorite Southern state , North Carolina - a state Obama believes he can win again - to officially accept his party’s renomination for president of the United States.
            Charlotte, one of the last cities for candidate Obama’s campaign the day before the Nov. 4, 2008 general election, was officially announced as the site for the Democratic National Convention Sept. 3-6, 2012.
            Over 35,000 Democratic delegates from across the nation, in addition to national and international press, are expected to rain down on North Carolina’s banking capital for what First Lady Michelle Obama, who broke the news Tuesday, calls “the People’s Convention.”
            More than anything else, we want this to be a grassroots convention for the people,” Mrs. Obama wrote in an email to Democrats. “We will finance this convention differently than it's been done in the past, and we will make sure everyone feels closely tied in to what is happening in Charlotte. This will be a different convention, for a different time.”
            City officials, led by Queen City Mayor Anthony Foxx, were elated Tuesday at being chosen over Cleveland, Ohio; St. Louis, Mo.; and Minneapolis, Minn. Their challenge now is to get Charlotte in shape - from hospitality to its arenas - to welcome the national throng. Boosters are already underway to raise the $53 million needed.
            Foxx, a Democrat and African-American moderate Charlotte city councilman elected mayor fourteen months ago, is credited with building a close and evolving relationship with the president during the several times they’ve met.
            Across that state , the pride was shared.
“Today’s decision is fantastic news for North Carolina regardless of your political party,” said  Gov. Beverly Perdue in a statement.  “A national political convention is a keystone event that will boost North Carolina’s economy, while showcasing Charlotte and our state to the nation and the world.  What they will see when they get here is what hundreds of businesses already know – Charlotte’s smart investments in infrastructure, cultural attractions and amenities have produced a climate perfect for work and play.”
Even Sen. Kay Hagan [D-NC}, who benefited from the Obama wave in her own 2008 election, welcomed the news.
“I am thrilled that Charlotte has been picked to host the Democratic National Convention in 2012,” Sen. Hagan said in a statement. “The economic impact of the convention will be a terrific boost for the many businesses, restaurants, stores and hotels in Charlotte. Once visitors see everything we’ve got going on, I know it will promote tourism to the region in the future.”
“I can’t wait for the convention attendees to see firsthand why North Carolina is the best state in the nation.”
But beyond the obvious economic boost and tremendous exposure that North Carolina will get from the four-day national convention, the political reality escapes no one.
“If this decision is proof of anything, it’s proof that Barack Obama will be fighting hard for North Carolina in 2012, as he did in 2008,” David Parker, the newly elected chairman of the NC Democratic Party just last weekend, said via YouTube video.
It’s also solid proof that the southern, voter-rich states of Florida, Virginia, and of course, North Carolina - states that Obama won in 2008 - will definitely be in play again for the 2012 election effort.
“We’re looking at an expanding map rather than shrinking back to husband our resources and play defense,” Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former governor of Virginia, told The New York Times Tuesday. “We were very excited about winning North Carolina in 2008. Putting our convention there is a very serious sign that we intend to compete there again.”
Putting the convention in the Old North State also guarantees Kaine that neighboring Virginia will be part of whatever regional Southern strategy employed by the Obama 2012 campaign.
On the national level, observers say that Obama’s affection for North Carolina has been quite evident for sometime.
“When the president wanted to preview his "Sputnik Moment" speech last December, he did so in North Carolina, praising the region's track record at Research Triangle Park and technical-training facilities,” wrote Howard Fineman of the Huffington Post. “He stressed solar and biomedical research -- two of the industries he also mentioned in his State of the Union.”
Indeed, that December visit to Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem inspired the president to coin his newest campaign mantra, “Win the future.” His 2012 challenge will be to convince the rest of North Carolina, and the nation, to invest in that future, despite a massive budget deficit, and withering GOP opposition to cut spending.
But North Carolina and the president also have something else in common - when it comes to Democratic politics, both are politically moderate. Having North Carolina Democrats, known for their conservative views, to embrace what many at first thought was a “wide-eyed liberal” president but later proved to be quite moderate, would send a strong message to that crucial bloc of unaffiliated independent voters who lean right politically, but supported Obama two years ago, and could come back to the fold again.
In 2008, Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte, gave Obama over a 100,000-vote advantage over Republican John McCain, thanks to One Stop/Early Voting, and massive voter registration and mobilization by over 2,000 boots on the ground statewide.
The campaign strategy in 2008 was daring, but simple. Because North Carolina was the only Southern state to offer One Stop-Early Voting/Same Day Registration - which was passed in 2006 after intense lobbying efforts by the NCNAACP, Democracy North Carolina, NC Fair Share and other progressive advocacy groups - the Obama campaign decided North Carolina offered a unique opportunity to pile up as many votes as possible during the early voting period in both the 2008 primary and general election.
That strategy worked against both Hillary Clinton in the primary, where Obama’s commanding 23-point lead in the polls shrank to just 14 points, courtesy of the raging Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy; and again in November 2008, where out of 4.2 million ballots cast in the general, Obama’s vote bank withstood McCain’s Election Day charge by 14,000.
The victory made Obama the first Democrat, since Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976, that North Carolina helped to win the White House.
Though the campaign hopes that lightning will strike twice, there are new challenges for the president as he faces re-election. For starters, Obama will now have an extensive record in office with which the press, the public, and certainly his Republican opposition will hold him to.
The state of both the national and North Carolina’s economy will most certainly play a role in the success or failure of the 2012 Democratic Convention in Charlotte. North Carolina is slowly recovering, with the unemployment rate here dropping incrementally below 10 percent compared to the national figures.
And of course, with North Carolina being a military state, with prominent bases like Fort Bragg and Seymour Johnson Air Force base at hand, the state of America’s war effort in both Afghanistan and Iraq will also be charged to Pres. Obama’s record while in office.
Still, North Carolina is a big gamble for the Obama campaign to count on again, some observers say.
"Despite being warned by some very smart demographers within the Obama camp, I was plumb wrong about Obama's chances of carrying North Carolina in 2008. He did win, but narrowly, and I'm willing to go double or nothing that, barring a disastrous GOP nominee or campaign, Obama will not repeat in the Tar Heel state in 2012," Tom Schaller, a political science professor and author of Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South, told The Huffington Post. "The Charlotte choice can't hurt, but it won't help that much."
But former DNC Chairman Howard Dean, who helped to strategize the party’s 2008 50-state strategy, disagrees.
“I don't know what the deciding factor was,” Dean told The Huffington Post. “But Charlotte is very well equipped for this so I think it will be a good convention and it is a swing state and I think that's good for us."