Obama and Republican rival John McCain have both been expanding staffs in North Carolina, underscoring the precariousness of polls in a state that hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in more than three decades.
"We've got to fight to make sure America gets back on track," Obama said. "I'm going to need to win North Carolina."
The Illinois senator, using his advantage in campaign cash to try and expand the political map, has been targeting North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia as states that could possibly flip to the Democrats. He has more than a dozen campaign offices in the state.
Obama used the Raleigh town hall to highlight his economic policies, arguing that ending the Iraq war could help provide billions for investment in the United States. And he said the nation can't drill its way out of its oil problem and instead needs to invest in alternative sources, such as solar and wind power and electric cars.
He also argued that McCain would simply adopt President Bush's policies, extending a period of declining wages.
"Are we going to do the same old things? Or are we going to change how government works?" Obama said.
The North Carolina Republican party shot back with a Web video, saying his tax plan would injure small business and claiming he doesn't understand North Carolina's economy.
Obama also visited North Carolina shortly after former Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton dropped from the race. McCain and other Republicans have worked to increase their presence in the state, although he has only visited to meet with evangelist Billy Graham.
While Obama is hoping to compete in North Carolina, it appears he's lost one of his top surrogates: former rival John Edwards. The former North Carolina senator, recovering from his admission that he had an affair with a former campaign staffer, did not attend the Obama event on Tuesday like other Democratic leaders in the state.
Obama praised both Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, during a stop here in June. But he did not mention either by name Tuesday.