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The Daily Tar Heel

Think outside of the Triangle

On Monday afternoon, President Obama addressed employees of Cree Inc. as part of his visit bent on boosting the fledgling economic recovery.

Now that candidate Obama is President Obama, winning my vote and others like mine will require more than just a reiteration of 2008 tactics.

Needless to say, North Carolina is a key swing state in 2012. While the motives behind Obama’s visit might be obvious, visits with an emphasis on the economy will be vital to his success in our state. N.C. is facing the 10th highest unemployment rate in the country. North Carolinians are suffering, despite the president’s constant reassurances that the economy will get better. As a rising senior, I’d like to see some “hope” for employment for a graduate in political science who has no desire to work in technology, the focus of Obama’s jobs initiative.

The belief in “hope and change” worked for Obama in 2008, but the economy has created the need for more concrete results in 2012. If Democrats hope to keep N.C. blue, Obama must show that he can bring real economic growth home to voters.

While the meeting on Monday looked great, Obama should focus not only on the state’s successes, but also those who might feel left behind.

Perhaps the president’s best route is to ease off on the platitudes, recognize reality and take the political risk to visit with those who are not doing so well. With the recent influx of Democratic-leaning voters to the Research Triangle Park area, Obama has the Park locked up. Visiting unemployed textile factory workers who missed the boat on retraining will do more to win liberal voters, as well as independents than talking with those spared by the recession.

While Obama courts the rest of North Carolina, he cannot afford to take those who have stood with him since the beginning for granted. This means the Obamaholics who inhabit the University. While I was a gung-ho Obama supporter three years ago, I have grown a bit jaded. I am still a Democrat, but I crave real solutions to the problems students face — tuition hikes and crowded classrooms. Just because college students are Obama’s bread and butter does not mean he can forget us.

Incumbency has its advantages and disadvantages. While the “lack-of-experience” claim won’t stick this time around, his record gives substance to what he has always been best at: speeches. And a good speech won’t spark magic like it did last time. In 2008, I was a freshman with no immediate concern about the job market. But now, I’m playing for keeps.

So far, Obama has been polling more favorably than any potential GOP candidate in the Old North State. Choosing Charlotte as the site of the 2012 convention is a good first step toward keeping this lead. But to secure the state and my vote, Obama needs to put aside the manual and take unusual steps if he hopes to win in these unusual times.

Ellen Locke is a member of the Editorial Board for the Daily Tar Heel. She is a Senior political science and global studies major from Raleigh. Contact her at elocke@email.unc.edu.

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