Tar Heel State Could Be 'Tar Pit' for Dems in 2012

North Carolina is one of a handful of states that Democrats know they will have to win if President Obama has a chance of staying in the White House for a second term. And with the state's voters soundly rejecting same-sex marriage and some unions boycotting the Democratic National Convention later this summer, winning may prove to be a difficult task.

Labor activists are reportedly joining gay activists in pushing Democratic Party leaders to make a late-in-the-game switch away from North Carolina as the site of the DNC this July, but party leaders say it's too late to change.

To add fuel to the fire, the state Democratic Party appears to be in a state of chaos over sexual harassment charges levied at the party's executive director, placing pressure on the state chairman who refuses to step down. Gov. Bev Purdue, the state's Democratic governor, is not running for reelection and the state's unemployment rate is above 9 percent.

Gary Pearce, a former Democratic consultant and author of a biography on former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt, says the issues plaguing the state's Democrats are more than superficial.

"The 'check engine' light is flashing on the dashboard of North Carolina politics, and a quick look under the hood shows the problem is more than a bad tank of gas," Pearce wrote on his blog Monday.

"We are emerging (hopefully) from a generation of incompetent political leaders. Governor Perdue's mindless comparison to Mississippi, Speaker Tillis's inept management of his sex-craved staff, the NC Democratic Party's self-immolation over the weekend and the succession of convicted and accused criminals have created a political world where there simply is no leadership. It's all about political convenience and ease, not what's good for the state. There's some hope with Pat McCrory, Walter Dalton and others, but it will require political bravery and fundamental competence that is missing from today's battlefield."

Additionally, many black pastors have expressed their disappointment over President Obama's support of same-sex marriage and it is unclear if he will lose enough of the state's minority vote to tilt the majority toward the GOP candidate.

When the Democrats chose Charlotte, N.C., to host the convention in February of 2011, things appeared to be rosier in the Tar Heel state.

Once known for its production of tobacco and textiles, the research triangle area of Raleigh-Durham, combined with the banking industry in Charlotte made the state appear to be a progressive mecca that represented everything the Democratic Party stood for.

But now a recent online petition to pull the convention out of Charlotte has gotten over 20,000 signatures and is causing a multitude of left-leaning groups to join the protest. Yet Democrats are adamant the early September convention will take place.

"Charlotte is going to host a great convention," said city Mayor Anthony Foxx.

Obama was the first Democrat nominee to carry the state since former President Jimmy Carter did in 1976 and state law allowing election day registration makes it appealing to the state's large college-aged population.

A North Carolina union official who agreed to speak but only if his name not be used, confirmed that the state party and union leaders were unclear as to how to handle the uproar around the convention.

"No one in the Democrat inner circles is excited about this year's convention and we're hearing there will be more protests from liberal groups as a result of the gay marriage vote and a lack of union participation," he said. "We're all hoping it will be a quick three-day event."

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