(Article found at the Washington Examiner.)
Democrats aren’t conceding any region of the country in their quest to re-elect President Barack Obama in 2012, the party’s chairwoman told Georgia Democrats on Wednesday at the opening of their new state party headquarters.
Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz said that includes Georgia, a state Obama lost three years ago by five percentage points.
“We are planting a flag in the South,” Schultz told a crowd of about 300. “We need to make sure we explain to voters that 2012 is personal.”
Schultz’s visit comes as Obama makes a three-day swing through the South touting his jobs plan, which failed to pass the Senate last week. Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, said there is a growing groundswell of Democratic momentum in the state and region, bolstered by the area’s changing demographics.
“We’re just building off the momentum we started in 2008,” she said, noting that the Obama campaign pulled out of Georgia several weeks before the general election. “It just became clear that it would be political malpractice to assume that the South is assumed to just be red.”
Schultz highlighted the growth of the country’s Latino population, in Georgia in particular, and said those voters could be key to an Obama victory.
“We are going to continue to quietly organize, slowly but surely,” she said. “I know the perception is that Georgia is a red state, but we’re slowly turning it purple around the edges.”
State Rep. Pedro Marin, a Georgia Democrat who was the first Latino elected to the state legislature, said he has heard frustration from Latinos about what they perceive to be a hostile attitude from Republicans. Marin said about 100,000 Latinos are registered Georgia voters, but another 100,000 are unregistered. The goal is to get them signed up and at the polls in November, and to convince them that Obama is still their best choice, Marin said.
“The resentment of Latinos is strong in Georgia,” he said, citing the state’s immigration law passed earlier this year by the Legislature. “It’s a big goal, but we have some groups out here doing voter registration. It’s working.”
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who also spoke at the opening, said he was encouraged by the packed building and cheering crowd, and urged them to rest up over the holidays ahead of a busy 2012 election season.
“We have a new energy, we have a new sense of purpose and a sense of mission,” Reed said. “This is exactly the kind of energy we’re going to need to re-elect Barack Obama.”
Reed added that the choice for voters is becoming clearer as the Republican presidential field continues to campaign and debate.
“They’ve been comparing [Obama] to the Almighty since the day he got in office,” Reed said. “Last night … you saw their alternative.”