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A capacity crowd packed the Obama campaign’s Winston-Salem headquarters on West 4th Street during a grand opening on Feb. 29 in which organizers urged volunteers to sign up for phone banking with neighborhood team leaders in Kernersville, east Winston-Salem, Lexington and Iredell County.

“In between now and the election we’ve got to persuade those who voted for Obama four years ago but [feel], ‘Well, we didn’t get everything we wanted,’” Jeannie Grimes, neighborhood team leader for Kernersville, told the enthusiastic crowd of more than 200.

Grimes said the Obama campaign has been operating phone banks at least once a week in Forsyth County since last April. Organizers made no effort to downplay how critical North Carolina is to President Obama’s reelection prospects. In 2008, Obama carried North Carolina by a razor-thin margin of 14,177 votes, or a 0.4 percent.

The Winston-Salem office is one of nine the Obama campaign has opened across the state, including Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Fayetteville, Asheville and Wilmington. “I know we cannot take this state without this county,” said Punya Krishnappa, Triad West regional field director, “without people like you working to re-elect this president.” Jesse Moore, the Obama campaign’s political director for North Carolina, underscored the point.

“Anybody that thinks this is going to be a cakewalk is dreaming,” he said. “This is going to be a difficult, difficult climb and an uphill lift.” The Winston-Salem campaign office grand opening drew numerous Democratic candidates, including Rep. Bill Faison, who is seeking the party’s nomination for governor, and Elisabeth Motsinger, who wants to unseat Republican Virginia Foxx as representative of the 5th Congressional District.

Republican officials concur that North Carolina is critical to the outcome of the presidential contest, while vowing: Never again. “Make sure that we don’t have to look at each other in November of 2012 and say that Barack Obama won North Carolina again,” NC Republican Party Vice Chairman Wayne King told delegates to the Forsyth County Republican Party on March 3.

“In 2008, many of you were just like me: You didn’t think it could happen. Fourteen thousand votes. Counties like Forsyth are critically important to making sure we win in 2012.”

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