PRESIDENT OBAMA was his poised and funny self when he appeared at a pro-Hillary Clinton rally in Philadelphia on Tuesday, but we couldn't help notice an edge in his voice.
The president realizes the crucial role Philadelphia will play in the election
To put it more starkly, unless Philadelphia voters show up in big numbers to vote for Clinton, she could lose the state of Pennsylvania to Donald Trump. And without the name Obama atop the ticket, there is a fear that younger and black voters will sit this election out.
It's easy to see the ramifications of that. In 2012, when Obama ran against Mitt Romney, the incumbent won Philadelphia by a margin of 492,000 votes - a staggering amount and a sign of his popularity among the city's voters.
The other side of the story is that Romney won 54 of the state's 67 counties. He lost the state by a margin of 309,000 votes. Had Philadelphians sat on their hands four years ago, the race for Pennsylvania would have been a lot closer.
Trump knows exactly what he needs to do win the state this year: keep Clinton's margin in Philadelphia to a minimum and do well in Philadelphia suburbs.
This explains why he was in Delaware County on Tuesday, touting his plans for family leave. It was a direct appeal to the suburban women (and men) who have doubts about his candidacy.
As for the city: Suppose turnout dips because of the No Obama factor. Suppose instead of a vote count of 690,000 as we had in 2012, it ends up at 550,000 or lower? It could happen here. We just came off a mayoral primary that featured the lowest turnout in the city's history.
Let's take three main issues, one by one:
Trump could pull more votes in Philadelphia than his predecessors, Romney and John McCain.
Romney got fewer than 95,000 votes in the city in 2012. Trump could beat that total, mostly because of his visceral appeal to white males. Suppose he gets a total of 150,000 votes by drawing out discontented voters? That adds 55,000 to his total.
Second, millennials will stay away from the polls, either because they don't care or they are still ticked off that Bernie Sanders, their favored candidate, didn't win the Democratic nomination.
That is a legitimate fear for Democrats. There are about 195,000 people between 18 and 24 years old in Philadelphia, but only three out of 10 have voted in the last five years. (In contrast, eight out of 10 residents aged 65 and older have voted.)
Third, black voter turnout will sag because a black man is not on the top of the Democratic ticket.
This is not likely. The city's black voters are a politically mature group who don't simply "vote black." Ask Mayor Kenney and Gov. Wolf - two white guys - who won by strong margins among black voters.
Besides, black voters might have a score to settle with Trump, who four years ago led the "birther" movement that questioned the citizenship of America's first black president.
Make no mistake: Clinton will win Philadelphia in November. The question is: by how much?
That's why Obama was in the city Tuesday. And that explains the edge in his voice.
Will Bunch is on vacation.