Dexter Hady, a black landscaper here, is exactly the kind of Obama supporter who could have slipped through the cracks this year. He recently moved to a new address and, not being as excited about the coming election as he was about the 2008 campaign, neglected to update his voter registration.
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By chance, a volunteer for the Obama campaign stopped Mr. Hady outside of the Wake County Courthouse here recently and asked him if he was prepared to vote. Mr. Hady said no, and went on to explain: "I can say I was definitely more excited to vote for Obama last time. I guess part of it is that history has already been made."
For the Obama campaign, it is almost impossible to overstate the importance of winning over people like Mr. Hady again in North Carolina, which has the largest percentage of black voters of any of the swing states -- especially in the wake of President Obama's performance in the first debate on Wednesday, which was widely seen as lackluster. In 2008, a strong black turnout that voted almost exclusively for Mr. Obama was credited with helping to turn North Carolina blue for the first time in decades, contributing to his ultimate victory.
For that to happen again, Mr. Obama would need a near repeat of black voter behavior in Raleigh and across the state. But times have changed. Enthusiasm is down, unemployment is up. And some socially conservative black ministers in North Carolina, where voters passed a referendum against gay marriages and civil unions in May, remain troubled that Mr. Obama endorsed same-sex marriage this year.
"When I voted for Obama in the previous election, I did think he was closer to my values," said the Rev. Dr. John H. Grant, 58, a black Baptist pastor in Asheville, N.C. "I'm pretty much undecided right now."
In 2008, Mr. Obama received 95 percent of the black vote nationally, and in North Carolina, virtually every black woman who voted did so for Mr. Obama, along with 87 percent of black men, according to exit polls.
In recent national polls, Mr. Obama overwhelmingly leads Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger, among blacks. A New York Times/CBS News Poll conducted last month showed that 94 percent of likely black voters supported Mr. Obama, compared with 6 percent who said they would vote for Mr. Romney. And the intensity of support for Mr. Obama was high, with nearly nine out of 10 black voters saying they "strongly favored" him. But it remains unclear what effect recent local developments will have on black turnout here in North Carolina, where a small drop-off in the support of a core constituency could have an outsize impact.
Some black voters say they are conflicted this year.
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SOURCE: The New York Times