For better or for worse, who North Carolina picks for president this November “could turn on gay marriage.”
North Carolina, host of the Democratic National Convention starting Tuesday, is among the closest of swing states, with polls showing President Obama and Mitt Romney locked in a statistical dead heat for much of the past year.
Four years ago, Obama won by only 14,000 votes out of 4.3 million cast, becoming the first Democrat to take the state since 1976. Repeating that win - and grabbing North Carolina's 15 electoral votes - would make Romney's path to victory a lot tougher. But the state's 9.6 percent unemployment rate is among the nation's highest, and Obama's challenge this year is wrapped in the racial and sexual politics of the Bible Belt.
The Rev. Patrick Wooden, pastor of a 3,000-member conservative congregation here, says Obama crushed his chances to repeat when he declared his support of same-sex marriage in May - the day after North Carolina voters in 93 of the state's 100 counties overwhelmingly approved the state's Amendment 1 banning it.
"I hope as many African Americans as possible are offended by his position," said Wooden, an African American who helped lead the anti-gay marriage campaign and has long opposed Obama. "I hope that even if they don't vote for his opponent, they just leave that part of the ballot empty."