Spike Lee is forecasting an uphill battle for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
“This thing is not a lock,” Lee told GQ magazine. “It’s not a lock that President Obama is getting a second term and people have to really rekindle the enthusiasm that we had the first time.”
Lee, who is correct in his assessment about the November election, echoes the sentiments of many black Democrats who are urging black voters to pack the polls like they did in 2008 to help Obama beat GOP rival Mitt Romney. Some leading Democrats say they are "worried" that Obama's positive message about the economy is not resonating with voters in America's heartland.
In fact, the African-American voter turnout will likely be crucial to Obama’s bid to stay in the White House – and race is certainly an underlining subtext in what is shaping up to be a close contest.
There are seven key battleground states – Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Nevada, Iowa, Colorado and Michigan – that are up for grabs and the economy in those states will certainly shape opinions heading into Election Day.
“I can't say to all the people that are unhappy with [Obama] that they're racist people,” Lee said. “People ain't got jobs, people are hurting. So I don't care what color you are, if people are out of work, it's tough. And then when you're the first African-American president, that's not helping either.”
Lee’s critique comes as the Obama campaign rolls out its first radio ad, “We’ve Got Your Back,” designed to rally black voters.
"Four years ago we made history,” an announcer says in the 60-second ad. “Now it's time to move forward and finish what we started together. We have to show the president we have his back."
While Obama proclaims, “We can’t afford to spend the next four years going backward,” as soulful background singers offer the refrain, "We've got your back."
The ad wraps up with Obama saying: "I refuse to pay for another millionaire's tax cut by kicking children off of Head Start programs; asking students to pay more for college; or eliminating health insurance for millions of poor and elderly and disabled Americans on Medicaid."
In Chicago, at the Obama campaign headquarters, strategists are studying maps and voter trends, and advisers like Stefanie Brown, director of the Obama campaign’s African-American voter outreach effort, are leading a grass-roots crusade along with black ministers, civil right groups and labor unions.
Obama campaign aides, including campaign manager Jim Messina, are advising Democrats not to panic in the wake of new polls, including one recent survey that shows Obama losing support among African-Americans in North Carolina.
The poll conducted by the Public Policy Polling (PPP) finds that Romney would get 20 percent of the African-American vote if the election were held today, compared with 76 percent for Obama. Overall, Romney has a 48 percent to 46 percent lead on Obama in the crucial swing state, according to the poll.
But the Obama campaign points to several other polls that seem to contradict the PPP survey by showing that the black community in North Carolina continues to support Obama by wide margins.
In polls conducted in May, a Rasmussen survey showed Obama with 92 percent of black voter support and Romney with 1 percent; Survey USA found Obama with 84 percent and Romney with 8 percent; and a Civitas poll showed Obama with 89 percent and Romney with 2 percent.
In addition, PPP seems to dispute its own findings.
“One caveat with Romney's lead on this poll is that it finds Obama winning the black vote by only a 76/20 margin,” PPP said in a statement. “That seems like an unrealistically low share of African-American voters for Obama.”
That’s an odd comment from PPP and it calls into question the entire PPP poll, the survey sampling size, and how the firm arrived at its seemingly flawed conclusions.
North Carolina could go either way, according to PPP, which means black voters in North Carolina are critical to the election process.
Meanwhile, Spike Lee said that voters will ultimately rally around Obama after watching three televised face-to-face debates between Obama and Romney.
“Once we get to the debates my man is going to tear him up!” Lee said in the GQ interview “It's going to be obvious who should lead this country for the next four years once they go head to head, toe to toe, elbow to elbow, butt to butt. And I don't think Mr. Romney can hang with him.”
Lee is probably right, but watch for yourself: The first debate is scheduled for Oct. 3.