By Eugene Robinson
At a high-spirited rally in Philadelphia on Sunday, President Obama challenged the mostly black crowd to defy pundits who purvey the conventional wisdom. "They think, 'Oh, well, Obama's name is not on the ballot; maybe they're not going to turn out,' " he said, referring to African-American voters. "You've got to prove them wrong."
Delivering the same message at historically black Bowie State University in Maryland a few days earlier, the president got downright personal: "Don't make me look bad, now."
How the president looks on Election Day will depend in part on his ability to fire up the constituencies in the Democratic Party's base. With different groups, he's taking different approaches.
For progressives who have criticized his administration from the left, he has a stern lecture that might be paraphrased like this: "Come on, people, give us a break. Have you noticed that we don't exactly have a liberal majority in Congress? Yet look at all we've managed to accomplish." For centrist Democrats who might have wanted him to spend more time on jobs and less on health care, Obama's message is essentially apocalyptic, although it's delivered in his customary no-drama way. Something like: "You're right, things aren't as great as we'd like. But just imagine the disaster if the Republicans take control of Capitol Hill."
With African Americans, his appeal has been simpler and more direct: "I need you." The response he gets from black voters may determine the outcome of some of November's key races.