martes, 15 de mayo de 2012

Charlotte, un quebradero de cabeza para Team Obama


President Barack Obama’s decision in February 2011 to hold the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina looked like a bold move to reclaim a state he’d won in 2008. Today, it’s more like an awkward fit.

The state’s Democratic Party is mired in a sexual harassment scandal. Voters just approved a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, which conflicts with Obama’s view on the issue. Convention fundraising has been slow, and labor unions tapped to fill the financial gap are angry the convention will be in a city -- Charlotte -- with no unionized hotels and in a state where compulsory union membership or the payment of dues is prohibited as an employment condition.

North Carolina’s 9.7 percent unemployment rate is above the national average and one of the host city’s top employers --Bank of America (BAC) -- has announced job reductions. Obama is scheduled to accept his party’s nomination at Bank of America Stadium in September.

“It’s inconceivable that they would move the convention,” said Don Kettl, dean of the school of public policy at the University of Maryland. “But they may wish that they had placed their chips on another swing state.”

(...) Gay Community Protests

Last week’s vote to approve a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage has triggered calls from gay rights activists to move the convention. Some Democrats also want to include same-sex marriage in the party platform that will be approved at the convention, a potentially headline-grabbing debate.

(...) Obama won North Carolina four years ago, just barely. The state, which hadn’t previously backed a Democrat for president since it went for Jimmy Carter in 1976, gave Obama 49.9 percent of the vote, compared with 49.5 percent for Senator John McCain of Arizona. The margin was about 14,000 votes out of 4.3 million cast.

(...) Association With Bank

There are political downsides for Obama in delivering his acceptance speech in a stadium named after a bank at a time when he’s championing the need for tighter regulations and more robust consumer protections.

Last October, Obama criticized a planned $5 dollar monthly fee that Bank of America was going to charge its debit card users. He said that while companies have a right to set fees, he questioned the bank’s explanation for the new charge.

(...) Sexual Harassment Allegations

Preparations for the Sept. 4-6 convention come as the Democratic Party in North Carolina is dealing with fallout from a sexual harassment accusation.

State Democratic Chairman David Parker submitted his resignation over the weekend following complaints about his handling of allegations by an ex-worker against a former party director.

Party members rejected his resignation and Parker says he plans to remain in his post, even though he’s been encouraged to leave by Democratic Governor Bev Perdue, who isn’t seeking a second term, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee Walter Dalton and state elected officials.

(...) Money Woes

Convention planners are expecting to receive, at most, $4 million from unions this year, less than half of the $8 million contributed by organized labor in 2008, according to a person familiar with the funding strategy who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record about fundraising. The number could eventually be less than $1 million and the Charlotte host committee, the main vehicle for funding the convention, is still short more than $20 million, the person said.

Obama’s campaign is working to connect Jim Rogers, the host committee co-chairman and chief executive officer of Duke Energy Corp. (DUK), with Obama’s wealthiest supporters. Rogers has accompanied Obama on his last two $35,800-per-person fundraisers in New York City, most recently last night at the home of Tony James, the president of Blackstone Group LP, according to a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.

Republicans have no such ban on corporate donations. The host committee for that party’s Aug. 27-30 convention in Tampa, Florida, is taking corporate donations as part of a $55 million fundraising goal.

Crone, the North Carolina Democratic strategist, said the decision to hold the convention in his state doesn’t look as smart as when it was first announced, given the controversies that have erupted since then. Still, he said it was important for the Obama campaign to show its commitment to southern states traditionally dominated by Republicans.

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