Supporters' Hard Work Changed N.C. Dynamic

generic north carolina map battleground swing state
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For the series, "Final Battleground," the CBS Evening News is traveling to three key areas of the country - the South, the Midwest and the West - to hone in on the states that will decide this presidential election. North Carolina is one state that could swing toward either Barack Obama or John McCain, CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield reports.


Why were John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin rallying in North Carolina this week?

One big reason is Barack Obama's network of supporters working there to recruit voters - more than 17,000 of them.

"I've probably registered between 25 and 40 of my fellow high school students," said Allisa English, an Obama supporter.

The "ground game" of Obama's campaign is one big reason why North Carolina's 15 electoral votes, once thought to be safely in John McCain's column, are up for grabs, Greenfield reports.

"For the first time in the history of North Carolina, every precinct in the state will be worked by volunteers from that area," said Marc Farinella, the Obama campaign's North Carolina director.

As in every state, the Obama campaign has made organizing its mantra: Send some money and, as Farinella explained: "we're gonna go ahead and ask that you also volunteer and talk to your neighbors and friends."

"We have never seen anything like this, we have something like 400 staffers in the state - compared to McCain, which is about 30 staffers," said Rob Christensen, a political writer for the Raleigh News and Observer.

It's an effort that has helped Obama tap into an influx of hundreds of thousands of new North Carolina residents.

"Now a lot of these people moving in are Republicans, but they are a different breed. They're sort of Starbucks Republicans, they're more moderate, more open to voting for somebody like a Barack Obama," Christensen said.

Republicans like H.P. Pelzel or Epherem Hurdle - now active Obama volunteers - underline the importance of neighborhood organizing.

"When we're out volunteering, you're doing in your community, your neighborhood," said Hurdle. "I go door to door with people I may see at the Food Lion, that I may see in the doctor's office, people I see every day."

Sen. Richard Burr, who chairs McCain's state campaign, points to another huge Obama advantage: money. That's allowed Obama to spend more than $1.2 million on ads in one week alone, outspending McCain on TV here 8 to 1.

"At the end of the day, though, this election's gonna be decided on things that we've decided on elections of the past, on taxes, on policies that really do hit the average American that affect them directly," Burr said.

Even if McCain wins North Carolina, Obama's massive efforts there have already won him a kind of victory - by forcing Republicans to divert time, energy, and money into a battle they never thought they were going to have to fight.