President Obama can win Virginia and North Carolina in his bid for reelection, but the playbook will be different from his inaugural victory in 2008 (and we can take back the North Carolina legislature! Hear that, Senate Dem leadership? I'm a hack for hire: pull the trigger on that bad boy!). Both states have large active duty and retired military populations, which is traditionally thought to skew conservative. This is the president who gave the "go" order on eliminating bin Laden, so he has a greater chance with these voters.
Virginia and North Carolina also have a unique socioeconomic geography. While great swaths of both states are rural, there are urban areas that are constantly growing. This growth is based on industry that attracts workers from other parts of the country (i.e. the Research Triangle of North Carolina), where people bring not only their abilities but their political opinions as well. (Remember: Cary, N.C., stands for Concentrated Area of Relocated Yankees). This influx of educated and involved voters came out for Obama in large numbers in 2008.
His bid for reelection is helped by statewide elections, especially in the commonwealth. Tim Kaine, a rock star if the Democratic party ever saw one, is running for Jim Webb's open Senate seat. (As Democrats, Tim Kaine's election to Virginia governor is our Woodstock: much as every baby boomer claims they were at the show in 1969, every Dem operative claims to have been part of Kaine's effort in 2005, the only pol to ever has a staff of 24 million). His popularity, coupled with his time as DNC chair, will help the president on the ground.
In North Carolina, Bev Perdue is running for a second term as governor. Although the statehouse in Raleigh is controlled by Republicans, her leadership during Hurricane Irene and the fact that the convention is in Charlotte will hope focus money and media on this area.
The citizens in Virginia and North Carolina also understand the role of government in their lives. While many on both sides of the aisle may want to limit the reach of government, the recent hurricane season reminded them that the resources that their tax dollars provided (i.e. FEMA) are good things to have in an emergency. The large coastal areas of these states, and the industries built up around them (tourism in NC, shipping and naval bases in VA) are better for it.
These states also have a great number of colleges, where he not only swept up voters in 2008 but many of his campaign volunteers originated from campuses, where they used their natural energy and social media prowess to promote his message of change. Now those students are facing uncertainty in the job market and in financing an ever increasing cost of education. The president must keep reminding the electorate that he is on the side of the voters, and that the Republican house is the cause for the stagnation seen in local economies. The president's personal story of getting through college on scholarships and loans, having nothing to fall back on but his talent and tenacity, resonates with these young people and their parents, who face their own unique struggles in maintaining the basic structures of the American dream. Fixing roads and bridges are tangible examples for taxpayers. The president is on the ground, sleeves rolled up, talking to the folks, while their Republican representatives are giving interviews from the hallways of the Capitol dome. What resonates more? There is only one thing that would really solidify the argument on behalf of the president and his push to have the jobs bill passed: his bus, the Death Star, hitting a pothole and getting a flat tire on one of these roads. Cue the press pool cameras: the president changing a tire! It writes itself!