Going to the source of political and other kinds of conversation was the thinking behind the state campaign’s B&B (that’s barber shop and beauty parlor) program, where patrons can pick up voter registration forms along with a haircut.
“It’s a cornerstone of every community,” said Don Johnson, who hosted an event at his Nu-U Barbershop and Hair Salon in Charlotte on a recent Saturday. “People go there; if they’re not getting services, they take their kids there.” He told me that “when you’re in barber college, they tell you there are three things you don’t talk about – religion, personal stuff and politics. But politics is a major part of the conversation.”
He added, “We’ve been supporting Obama for a while. He’s done a good job for veterans, in health care and looking out for the small businessman, which is good for me. There’s more urgency for the second campaign than the first one.”
The president and first lady have made several stops in North Carolina, with Michelle Obama bringing a “Let’s Move!” event to Charlotte in March, during the 100th anniversary of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA). In May, she gave the commencement address for North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.
In September, the Obamas will return for the Democratic convention in Charlotte, where the city’s second African American mayor, Anthony Foxx, will host, with advisory assistance from Harvey B. Gantt, architect, community leader and, in the 1980s, the city’s first African American mayor.
“The convention will give them a boost in terms of publicity, assuming everything goes well,” said Bositis. In 2008, Obama built up big early-voting leads in Charlotte’s Mecklenburg County that countered North Carolina election-day results, which he actually lost.
Obama’s support of same-sex marriage, thought by some to cause a rift between the president and conservative black voters, has so far not seemed to affect support for him.
With the support of black voters, a May amendment to the North Carolina constitution defining marriage between one man and one woman as the only domestic legal union passed overwhelmingly. Yet, as Dwayne A. Walker, pastor at Charlotte’s Little Rock AME Zion Church, told me, though he believes “God intends for men to marry women and women to marry men,” he was against the amendment, which he felt had “unintended consequences,” and he is for Obama.
“I’m an avid Democrat, and will be supporting him again,” Walker said.
When it comes to Obama’s chances of 2012 success, what matters most may not be the number of new voters his campaign can sign up or the amount of enthusiasm a September speech in Bank of America stadium can generate, but the unemployment rate. Right now, in North Carolina, it stands at 9.4 percent, above the national 8.2 percent.
“It’s going to be tough,” said Bositis.
Follow Mary on Twitter @mcurtisnc3
This article is the first in a series called “Battleground 2012″ that looks at key states and factors that will affect November’s election.