As trekked through the Philadelphia suburbs, Northern Virginia, and Greensboro, N.C., in recent days, his campaign was ramping up a massive parallel effort in big cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Miami.
In the largely black precincts of those metropolises, radio broadcasts blast constant reminders to vote for Obama, field organizers swarm, and megastars including Jay-Z, Russell Simmons, and LeBron James have led massive rallies, working to reach not just the substantial portion of the black community who regularly come out to vote, but the younger people and others who have never before cast a ballot.
Though the rallies are publicized, much of the advertising directed at black voters isn't. Get-out-the-vote ads on radio and television aren't released to the media, and the number of new voters Obama has registered is a closely-held secret. He is, however, leaving no stone unturned when it comes to registering African-American voters. The campaign has, for example, a major initiative aimed at turning barbershops and beauty parlors into voter registration offices. This week, Kimora Lee Simmons' E! Network reality show, Life in the Fab Lane, carried a campaign ad at the bottom of the screen reminding citizens to register to vote.
Monday morning, the deadline for registration in several key states, Obama appeared on two of the most widely-heard African-American radio programs, where hosts implored listeners to register to vote and Obama directed them to his campaign's registration website.
"The African-American vote can be a game-changer in all sorts of states," Obama told host Steve Harvey. "In Florida, in Indiana, in North Carolina, in Ohio.. I just want people to look at the numbers."
Little of this targeted outreach has produced images of Obama addressing black crowds or mingling with black officials, and most has gone unnoticed by the broader electorate.
"If you didn't notice it, then you probably weren't the target," said Obama spokesman Corey Ealons of the targeted advertising. He described the campaign's general voter registration drive - which has focused heavily on young voters, as well as African-Americans - as "a very extensive effort and that's been one of the highlights and major focuses of the campaign."
Obama's campaign is led by two of America's leading experts on the subtle dynamics of race and politics, the candidate himself and consultant David Axelrod, who has made a specialty of electing black mayors and, more recently, the first black governor of Massachusetts. The model has been consistent: A media campaign that focuses intensely on white, swing voters and a massive push to bring to the polls black voters who need no convincing of the historic nature of the candidacy.
Indeed, Obama's pioneering status has allowed him to run a campaign that focuses almost entirely on those swing voters, and virtually ignores the base, at least in its public appearances. Obama doesn't do mega-rallies in a majority-black city like Detroit-and he's sometimes the only one who provides a measure of diversity to his television advertisements, which are peopled with the white voters he's trying to win over.
"What he has done is he's shunned black voters - but he knows that they know that he's black. And he knows that they know in our communities we have a certain feeling that he's got to do that to get those white votes," said Kevin Wardally, a New York City political consultant who worked for Hillary Clinton. "We inherently believe that what he's doing he has to do - he has to not be in Harlem to get those white votes."
Obama's holy grail is what Mark Blumenthal, the editor and publisher of Pollster.com, refers to as "asymmetrical black turnout": Obama doesn't just need black turnout to increase; he needs it to increase at a higher rate than white turnout.
"If that happens, it could be worth a point or two in stats like Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, and maybe Indiana, and the polls may or may not be picking it up," he said.
Of course, every four years Democrats and their allies build a massive field operation, and every four years they claim that their efforts to turnout the party's base will carry them over the top. But close observers of the African-American vote say this year is truly different.