President Obama is making his second visit to the city in as many weeks - and is calling upon an unlikely ally to shore up the support of his political base.
Obama will be speaking Wednesday for the first time as commander in chief at the annual convention of the National Action Network and standing with its founder, the Rev. Al Sharpton - whom the President largely ignored before his 2008 election.
The symbolic speech at the Sheraton in midtown - coming just days after the President held two events in Harlem - indicates that Obama, who is battling slipping poll numbers, is trying to bolster his standing among African-Americans, political scientists said.
"It proves again that 2012 will be very different than 2008," said Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. "Then, Obama was very wary of the race issue and of being labeled as a 'black candidate.'"
"But some of the enthusiasm surrounding that election has faded," said Sabato. "He needs an injection of energy and Sharpton can provide some of that, at least in the black community."
Obama and Sharpton have always been uneasy partners.
Sharpton - whose own political campaigns were defined by racial issues - initially questioned the Illinois senator's qualifications, and at first seemed inclined to support Hillary Clinton.
Obama spoke to the National Action Network in 2007. Although Obama often seemed to hold the Harlem icon at arm's length, he has consulted with Sharpton more frequently in recent years.
"The men will both benefit from the meeting," said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf.
"This shows clout and power for Sharpton," Sheinkopf said, "and for Obama the message he's sending is clear: 'I'm African-American, I'm protecting my base, and AlSharpton is going to help me do it.'"
"Obama knows he's going to need the minority voter and the liberal white voter to turn out in big numbers if he has a real opponent next November," he said.
Obama, who officially announced his reelection bid this week, will likely win the vast majority of the African-American vote, but political strategists see the Harlem events and the National Action Network speech as a way to inspire turnout.
"Obama needed four out of 10 white votes in 2008, so he had to strike a different tone [than Sharpton] and form a different coalition," said Sabato.
"But he can't forget this part of his constituency either," Sabato said. "He may not need the base in 2012, but he doesn't want to take any chances. He doesn't want to look back and say 'If only I had met with Al Sharpton.'"