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Peach State Pits Minority Voters Vs. GOP Lean

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Assuming Obama picks up almost all of the black vote and at least half of other minority voters, he still needs somewhere between a quarter and a third of the white vote to win. That won’t be easy.

In 2008, according to exit polls, only 23 percent of white voters in Georgia pulled the lever for Obama.

“With Obama, it’s hard to see him getting the rural whites, but does he maybe get some of the suburban ones if they think the GOP nominee is too conservative? It’s hard to say he doesn’t have a chance,” a knowledgeable Georgia-based source said. “But it’s just hard to see if you didn’t vote for him last time, why you vote for him this time unless the GOP candidate is too far out there?”

There is, of course, the possibility that Obama would find himself with a challenger with Georgia roots, which could wipe out any chance of competing there. Two candidates vying for the GOP nomination, businessman Herman Cain and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, are Georgia natives.

Rountree, who is also a GOP pollster, said his firm conducted a mid-May auto-dial poll of 1,577 likely Georgia voters showing an uphill climb for Obama.

It found 43 percent supported Obama’s re-election and 47 percent thought it was time to elect someone else. But when the survey put the president head-to-head with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), Obama led 43 percent to
39 percent.

“Mitt Romney is not going to excite Republican voters down here,” said former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), who ran for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 2008. “That is a danger, that it would suppress Republican turnout.”

In 2008, the Obama campaign briefly considered making a concerted push in Georgia. It figured demographics and Barr’s presence on the ballot could be on its side. But it never spent much money or devoted much of Obama’s time to the state, and in the end he lost to McCain
47 percent to 52.2 percent.

Indications are that the president will compete in Georgia, but it’s not clear to what extent the Obama campaign will consider it a battleground.

A source with knowledge of the Obama campaign said hundreds of volunteers have attended phone banking events in Georgia. Those volunteers have made “thousands” of calls since the president formally announced his re-election bid, the source said.

But Barr is extremely skeptical, given the heavily Republican tilt of the state.

“In politics anything is possible, but I think it’s highly unlikely that he could successfully carry Georgia in 2012,” he said.

There are other factors besides winning the state’s 16 Electoral College votes, however, that might make it smart for the Obama campaign to take a good look at putting the Peach State in play. It could be considered a head-fake to force the GOP to spend cash in a state viewed previously as safe.

“If the Republican feels like they have to be on Atlanta TV to lock down Georgia, that’s $600,000 a week” the candidate could be spending elsewhere, Huttman said.

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