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July 30th, 2012
12:50 PM ET

The Battlegrounds: African-American turnout

Editor's note: The 2012 presidential race is CNN Chief National Correspondent John King's seventh campaign. King is traveling through battleground states, where the election will be decided, to find the voters who will determine whether President Barack Obama gets a second term or if the country needs the change in direction that Mitt Romney represents.

By John King, CNN Chief National Correspondent

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (CNN) - Paulette Beale shakes her head at the suggestion, then flashes a contagious smile.

"It's still history," she says, to rebut the notion there could be less intensity for President Barack Obama in the African-American community the second time around.

"The first history was that he won. The second history's that he won twice. So, it's not just about history the first time, you have to be concerned about the history for the next four years also. You can make history more than one time, you know."

Her mother and father stand a few feet away, nodding approvingly.

Paul and Altermese Beale founded Paul Beale's Florist 41 years ago. Paulette takes the lead now, but her parents are on hand helping most days in a shop that is an institution in the Ogontz Avenue area of North Philadelphia.

"We love him," Altermese Beale says of Obama. "One of the proudest days of my life was the day he was elected."

The Beales are determined to see the president re-elected, and are part of an Obama campaign ground operation that is active early because of several obstacles to generating the big African-American turnout that was critical to then-Sen. Obama's 2008 victories in many of the major presidential battlegrounds, Pennsylvania among them.

Our visit this week was timed to coincide with the president's speech to the National Urban League.

At that meeting, in New Orleans, a major topic of discussion is a new Urban League study suggesting that if African-American turnout in 2012 falls back to 2004 levels, then Obama is almost certain to lose North Carolina and would find things much tougher in a handful of other battlegrounds, including Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, Florida and Pennsylvania.

In 2008, just shy of 65% of eligible African-Americans voted for president; in 2004 it was 60%. That prospect of lower turnout could change the math in some key battlegrounds even if the president runs roughly equal to his share of the African-American vote, an eye-popping 95% in 2008.

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