CHARLOTTE - Tom Olson is good at what he does, serving the Sunday brunch crowd at Harper's Restaurant in the Queen City's upscale South Park neighborhood. He
cheerfully hovers over a large family that is asking for his menu recommendations.
Olson hesitantly talks about politics until he is asked how he feels about
"I voted for him in 2008," he admitted, but now he is "very unhappy with him."
Obama's first term soured him on all politicians. "I find him very dishonest,"
Olson said of Obama. "Very dishonest," he repeated, just for emphasis.
North Carolina went for Democrats in the 2008 presidential election, the first
time since 1976, for a number of reasons: First, the national climate was
favorable to Democrats; second, Obama consolidated the African-American vote even more than other Democrats; third, he won massively among those ages 18 to 29, while losing every other age demographic.
Patrick Kanetaka, 44, of Raleigh liked Obama "a lot" in 2008. He was tired of the Bush years and he thought Republican presidential candidate John McCain would just be more of the same.
"It's fair to say, today I have buyer's remorse," he said.
Kanetaka said he is voting for Republican Mitt Romney this time. As for Obama, he said, "It's the overreach, the spending, the lack of leadership or connection on the economy."
In 2008, Obama narrowly lost the 30-44 age group that both Olson and Kanetaka fall into, according to Geoffrey Skelley, a University of Virginia political analyst.
"And he lost both the 45-64 and 65-plus age groups to McCain," Skelley said.
By running up his margins among minorities and young people while losing those
older white voters, Obama edged McCain by about 14,000 votes here, said Skelley.
"This all helped Beverly Perdue down-ticket win the governor's office."
Perdue is not running for reelection this year because she is not very popular and had little chance of winning. Recent polling showed her disapproval rating at 59 percent, her approval at just 30 percent, Skelley said.
"Today, the Republican challenger, Pat McCrory, is leading Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton by a fair amount, which is why the seat is seen as likely Republican," he said of the state's gubernatorial race.
The economy has to be the main thing working against Obama here, as it is all over the country, he added.
"That was it for me," confirmed Victor Reavis a Charlotte Democrat who voted for
Obama in 2008. Reavis has had four jobs in four years. "Small businesses don't
convert contract employees into full-time employees in this economy," he
The father of two small children said that being "a one-income family" makes
health-care a challenge. He moved away from Obama over the president's handling of the economy, the way the health-care bill was pushed without Republican input, and federal spending.
"All of it, all of it, is just way off from what he promised. There was no working together," he said.
North Carolina provided Obama's narrowest victory in 2008. If the 2012 contest
will be even closer, as everyone anticipates, that means an improvement in
Republican performance would most immediately be seen in North Carolina, according to Skelley.
"I think Romney mainly has the economy going for him (here), as is the case
nationally," said Skelley. "That's the issue he's got to win on, as it's Obama's
While there may be some social issues that favor Romney, a recent Charlotte
Observer poll found the Republican candidate to be up 3 percentage points over
Obama on the question, "Which candidate shares your values?" So that means it's a pretty close race at the moment.
What could work for Obama in North Carolina, however, is demographics: Blacks will support him, even though the gay-marriage issue is impacting his support among black evangelicals; the same is true with a great majority of Hispanics in this state.
Today, Victor Reavis, an information-technology project manager, drives more than 120 miles a day to and from work; gas prices, like the rising costs of everything else, is hitting his family budget hard.
"The country is now more divided than it ever was," he said. "And where are the
jobs, the stability?"
Sitting outside of the Times Warner Center during the president's convention speech David McIntyre, 28, said he is voting for Obama, "But honestly I have no problemwith Romney," he said.
The 28-year-old software engineer who was unable to attend the speech because of
suspect weather reasons said, "I have no doubt that Romney is not the unacceptable leader that the Obama campaign has made him out to be with the negative campaing ads," he said.
"I am sure Romey would make a very good leader on the economy," he said sitting with a scattering of folks milling around outside of the center waiting to watch Obama on a big screen.