In 2008, they were motivated, optimistic, and ultimately elated. Black women here and around the country weren’t just behind President Obama, they made history: among all racial, ethnic and gender groups, African-American women had the highest voter turnout rate, the first time that has ever happened. About 69 percent of voting-age black women cast ballots, nearly all for Obama.
Four years later, the mood has changed. The ground troops here haven’t lost their enthusiasm, but they admit the road ahead will be tougher. They see “doom and gloom” among some fellow Obama supporters that worries them.
“It’s hard to re-create the kind of excitement and energy of a first-in-history kind of scenario, but I think that support exists nonetheless,” said 47-year-old Valaida Fullwood of Charlotte, who volunteered extensively for Obama’s campaign in 2008.
Fullwood, a writer and consultant in philanthropy, added, “I don’t have the disposable income to commit in the ways I did before, taking off days and weekends and renting vans.” But she said she is still committed to the get out the vote in the general election. “Because of the emotional roller coaster that the last campaign brought, I know how to pace myself a little better. . I’m saving up for some endurance to help out in the final stretch.”
The black female vote will be even more critical now for the president than in 2008, both in North Carolina and around the country. He won this state by only about 14,000 votes, of among more than 4 million cast. But polls suggest the president has lost ground among white, moderate voters here and around the country.
And Democratic officials privately say they could see some drop-off among young black men, who have struggled more than almost in any other group to get jobs in the weak economy of the last four years.
So Obama will need black women to turn out like they did in 2008 for him to carry states like Virginia, Florida and North Carolina, that are crucial to his reelection hopes and have large African-American populations.
In short, he needs people like Fulwood not only to vote, but make sure their relatives, friends and neighbors do as well.
In 2008, Fullwood was a part of family of Obama activists. Her sister Diatra Fullwood, 45, and cousin Britt Brewer-Loudd, 46, were also extensively involved in the campaign.
The Fullwood sisters first hit the road for Obama’s South Carolina primary contest, renting a van at their own expense, driving from Charlotte to the small town of Kingstree, S.C., and doing everything from holding up signs to knocking on doors.
Brewer-Loudd, who is a circulation distribution manager for Dow Jones, did it all, too, she said, serving as precinct chair, putting door holders on doors about early voting, registering voters and phone-banking.
She’s been working on and off for Democratic candidates since then, including Anthony Foxx, Charlotte’s second African American mayor, and through a 2010 midterm Republican wave she said she saw coming.
Re-electing President Obama, “that’s going to be the big challenge here,” she said. “We worked really hard (in 2008) and the fact that we only won by 14,000 votes, it’s really scary. There’s a lot of doom and gloom out there among the president’s supporters, and there doesn’t have to be.”
All three women plan to be heavily involved in the campaign again.
Diatra Fullwood said that during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and afterward, “I’m there – wholeheartedly.” In her job as manager of the visitor’s information center at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, she will be greeting many of the 35,000 visitors expected for the convention, which Democrats hope will generate enthusiasm for the fall campaign.
Brewer-Loudd is working again as a precinct chair and much of what she hears gives her confidence.
As she campaigns, she said she meets “a lot of senior ladies who want to protect the president – they feel like he’s their baby, their son,” Brewer Loudd said. “Young black women feel pride, as well. We have an opportunity to stand up and be heard, to matter, to be counted, to feel like we have something to contribute.”
She added, “I’m proud of this family (The Obamas). They have good hearts, they’re raising their family, they’re raising their children — things black people have always done and have never gotten the credit for on a grand scale.”
But the women acknowledge it will be harder this time to lift the president over the top in the Tar Heel state.
“I think it’s going to be tight, no doubt about it,” Valaida Fullwood said of the 2012 campaign and election. “I think it’s going to be brutal. If you think it’s been ugly so far, it’s going to get uglier than we ever could have imagined or would hope. I’m just hopeful we can eke it out and keep North Carolina blue.”