Saturday, October 4, 2008

And the Numbers keep adding up

With about a month to go before the election, much has been made about the dramatic increases in voter registration. I took a look at the NC State Board of Elections website, and just compared the most recent totals for voter registration at the end of two most recent weeks: the week ending 9/27 and 10/3. Here's some figures:

  • Change from 9/27 to 10/3: +31,114 new registrations

Of those new registrations:
  • Voters declaring affiliation with the Democratic Party: 16,067 (51.6% of the new voters)
  • Voters declaring an "unaffiliated" affiliation: 8,844 (28.4%)
  • Voters declaring affiliation with the Republican Party: 5,978 (19.2%)

With the deadline of registering to vote coming soon (October 10), North Carolina has over 6 million registered voters on the books. Out of this 6 million registered voters, a similar pattern is holding yet again: 14 counties account for over 50% of the registered voters in the state. In order of size of registered voters, and the percentage of the state's total registered voters, are the following counties:

  1. Mecklenburg: 599,523 (10%)
  2. Wake: 562,940 (9.3%)
  3. Guilford: 339,261 (5.6%)
  4. Forsyth: 211,688 (3.5%)
  5. Cumberland: 198,566 (3.3%)
  6. Durham: 184,537 (3.0%)
  7. Buncombe: 171,367 (2.8%)
  8. New Hanover: 140,653 (2.3%)
  9. Gaston: 122,698 (2.0%)
  10. Union: 116,526 (1.9%)
  11. Cabarrus: 105,697 (1.7%)
  12. Pitt: 102,245 (1.7%)
  13. Catawba: 101,893 (1.7%)
  14. Orange: 100,967 (1.6%)
The counties that are home to major metropolitan regions--Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville, Asheville, New Bern, and now Greenville--are narrowing the field of voters into the (primarily) "interstate" counties. And, as has been the case in recent elections, a smaller number of counties make up the majority of votes cast in North Carolina.

While the candidates and their campaigns in the state-wide races (president, U.S. Senate, governor) are probably focusing on these interstate counties and their surrounding areas, what will be interesting to watch is the other 86 counties (some in the metro regions and those consider "rural") will behave come Nov. 4. Increased voter registration will most likely increase turnout, but it's good to remember that you can register a voter, but getting them to the polls is like a horse--although getting them to "drink" may be easier with the intensity and energy surrounding this year's election water.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Will Tar Heel Whites Vote Black?

In teaching my U.S. Campaigns & Elections class this fall, I constantly remind my students that as a social scientist, I (and they) study human behavior, and that's pretty dangerous. Because at some point, our data (i.e., human beings as voters) will lack reliability (read: people lie). I know, I know, how dare someone point out that human beings would be deceitful and not give honest answers when asked by a social scientist. Well, here's some evidence from a recent poll that will give pause to how we are interpreting this fall's election, especially in North Carolina.

To put my argument (that human beings lie) into context, here's the results of two questions asked on a New York Times poll taken over the summer, when both nominees were well known to the general public:

Do you think most people you know would vote for a presidential candidate who is black, or not?

  • Would: 69%
  • Would not: 16%
  • Don't know/no answer: 15%

Would you personally vote for a presidential candidate who is black, or not?

  • Would: 90%
  • Would not: 6
  • Don't know/no answer: 5%
So while "most people" would personally vote for presidential candidate who is black, some of us know of "someone" who would not vote for a presidential candidate. So while we're all willing to vote for a black candidate, there are some of us out there who are not.

In a recently-released Elon University poll, a similar set of questions were asked of North Carolina respondents (411 respondents, with a margin of error of 4.9%):

All things being equal, would you rather vote for a black person, a white person, or would a presidential candidate's race make no difference to you?

  • Vote for a black person: 0.7%
  • Vote for a white person: 2.9%
  • Race doesn't make a difference: 95.9%
  • Don't know: 0.5%

Do you know people that will not vote for a presidential candidate is who is black?

  • Yes: 54.7%
  • No: 43.3%
  • Don't know: 1.9%

So, in North Carolina, half of us know someone who won't vote for a black presidential candidate, but it ain't us. Sound fishy?

Well, in the study of white voting behavior when it comes to black candidates, there are two schools of thought. As noted in his excellent study of Changing White Attitudes toward Black Political Leadership, political scientist Zoltan L. Hajnal wrote that while some scholars point to the public opinion polls that report white respondents willing to vote for black candidates and that the number of black elected officials has increased in primarily white areas (states, cities, etc.), the other side of the scholarly fence point to the fact that when there is a white and a black candidate in the same election, whites vote for their own.

For example, in 2006, the U.S. Senate race in Tennessee featured Bob Corker (white Republican) and Harold Ford (black Democrat). In the exit polls from that race, white respondents went 59% for Corker to 40% for Ford. Of course, this was a particularly nasty election battle (the television ads were particularly fierce against Ford), with Corker winning the seat 51% to 48%.

What Hajnal found in his study is that when white voters see black political officials in office, they find themselves more comfortable and will vote for the black incumbent, as opposed to when a black challenger is first running for elected office. As this is the first presidential election with a black candidate as a party nominee, it will be interesting to see how white voters respond and react.

In North Carolina, one can see a partial test of this scenario, in the guise of the May 5th Democratic presidential primary between Obama and Sen. Clinton. Sen. Obama carried the major metropolitan counties along the interstates with over 55% of the vote, along with the "majority-minority" counties in the north-eastern part of the state and stretching along NC's "black-belt" counties. However, Sen. Clinton won significant portions of the white majority NC mountain counties with 55% or more of the vote in these conservative counties (only Buncombe, with UNC-Asheville, and Watauga, with App State University, counties went more than 55% for Obama).

If Sen. Obama is to win North Carolina, some estimates indicate that he needs at least 36% of the white vote. This will be a critical test to see if there is truth in the statement, "whites vote black."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is It 4 or 20 for McCain?

According to the polls at RealClearPolitics, it would appear to be good news for both Senators McCain and Obama in North Carolina, depending on which poll you believe.

For the McCain supporters, both history and the Research 2000 and Survey USA polls are worth noting. President Bush won North Carolina in 2000 and 2004 by 13 and 12 points respectively, and with Research 2000 showing a 17 point lead and Survey USA showing a 20 point advantage, McCain should believe that North Carolina will be a reliably Red Republican state at the presidential level in seven weeks.

For the Obama supporters, a trio of polls, taken around the same time, tell a different story: PPP shows a 4 point McCain lead, Civitas shows a 3 point McCain lead, and a just released poll by CNN gives McCain an statistically insignificant 1 point lead over Obama. Not seeing the internals of the CNN poll, we don't know how Obama is doing with several key groups, most importantly with whites in the Tar Heel state.

For Obama to win North Carolina, he needs to claim a higher percentage of white support than what other polls are showing. For example, in the Survey USA poll, only 26% of whites are supporting Obama. Even with a huge turnout of black voters, the senator from Illinois needs to break into the mid- to high -30s in order to claim North Carolina's electoral votes. While there's 48 days to do so, money and manpower will be critical to pulling himself up ten points among white voters.

PS--sorry for the delay in posting since July. It's been a hectic beginning of the school year here at Catawba, but I hope to be able to do some more analysis and posting now that we've got things going here on campus.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Follow the Money Trail in the Tar Heel Senate Race

A recent swath of polls done in North Carolina show that incumbent U.S. Senator and Republican Elizabeth Dole has regained a comfortable lead against Democratic challenger and N.C. state senator Kay Hagan. Most recently, Rasmussen released a poll last week showing that, unlike Sen. John McCain (who was only up 3 points over Sen. Barack Obama in the state), Dole has a double-digit lead in the Tar Heel state. This, when combined with a Survey USA, Public Policy Polling, and Civitas polls since June 1, shows Dole with a double-digit lead of anywhere from 10 to 14 points. But more importantly than polls at this stage of the political season is the poll of money--specifically, campaign contributions.

It is often quoted that "money is the mother's milk of politics." And in the upcoming battle for the U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina, both campaigns are seeking to ensure that they've got plenty of milk on stand-by for this fall's contest.

In Federal Election Commission filings released for the quarter ending June 30, current U.S. Senator and Republican Elizabeth Dole raised nearly $1.65 million while Democratic challenger Kay Hagan raised $1.42 million. Out of Dole's fundraising, $1.28 million came from individuals, while Political Actions Committees gave $331,306 to the Republican's efforts. Out of Hagan's fundraising, $1.14 million came from individuals, while PACs gave $282,700 to the Democrat's efforts.

As we enter the critical period leading into the general campaign (which "informally" begins around Labor Day), Hagan had $1.21 million on hand, while Dole had $2.7 million. One of the key tests for whether this U.S. Senate race will be a competitive one will be how much Hagan will be able to raise before the true campaign begins. With most Americans turning their attention to the waning days of summer, getting those last minute vacations in, and watching the Beijing Olympics, both candidates will probably be shoring up their bank accounts prior to Labor Day's festivities beginning.

One other interesting note about this race: the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, or DSCC, has apparently reserved ad time in the tune of potentially $5 to $6 million. With that large of a media buy, it may be indicative of a race that the national Democratic Party has its eyes on.

Just a cursory glance at the filings at the Federal Election Commission's website for this race shows that the DSCC seems to be very interested in this Tar Heel race. When compared to the other competitive senatorial races around the country by Charlie Cook, Kay Hagan was second, only to the Oregonian Democratic challenger, in receiving money so far in this election cycle (2007-08 as of July 20): a total of $145,802 was sent by the DSCC to Kay Hagan's campaign in "party coordinated expenditures."

This, combined with the potential media buy, will probably lead to the Tar Heel state being awash in mother's milk come the November general election.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Can Obama Really Flip this Tar Heel State?

Several stories out there have started the rumor mill grindin away about whether presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama can "flip" North Carolina from its historic red state trend to blue this fall.

In fact, in his kick-off for the general campaign after Sen. Clinton endorsed him this past Saturday, Sen. Obama came to Raleigh to begin his economic-oriented tour of the country. Many talking heads and pundits have said "this signals that the Obama campaign will make North Carolina a targeted state for this fall."

Well, what do the numbers tell us? Accordingly to some data provided by the NC State Board of Elections and some analysis that I have done:
  1. Sen. Obama did win an impressive 14% victory over Sen. Clinton in the May 6th primary. But that was in the Democratic primary (granted, for every voter in the same date Republican primary, there were 3 voters casting ballots in the Democratic primary).
  2. Over the past few presidential elections, North Carolina has been a fairly reliable red state. In 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush won the state by 13 percentage points. From 2000 to 2004, Bush increased his vote total by 300,000 votes, even with a Tar Heel on the ticket in '04 (John Edwards).
  3. Now, if it is true that both candidates (McCain and Obama) are going to go huntin' in each other's backyards, then things may be all over the place. North Carolina certainly would be one area to watch, with 20 percent of registered voters being black. More importantly, in the major urban counties, such as Mecklenburg and Wake, black voters make up 29% and 19% respectively.
  4. In the May primary, with counties having over 29% registered black voters, Obama won 65% to Clinton's 33%. Conversely,...
  5. In the same election and in counties with 10% or less registered black voters, Obama won 38% to Clinton's 59%.
  6. Again, same election, but in the 10 urban/suburban counties that made up 50% of the Democratic primary vote, Obama won 65% to Clinton's 33%. Registered black voters in these counties range from 38% in Cumberland County, home to Fayetteville, to 6% in Buncombe County in the mountains--BUT also home to the UNC-Asheville, a well-known liberal area of the mountains and one of two mountain counties (the other being Watauga, home to App State) that voted for Obama in the primary.

So what does all this mean? Well, if Sen. Obama wants to carry the Tar Heel state this fall, he has to push his vote up significantly in those 10-15 major metropolitan counties that will decide this fall's general election, as well as do better than 38% in those rural counties, especially in the mountains and along the Jessecrat region of the state (see previous post on those voters).

In this analyst's view, making all that happen will require some significant work to flip this state. But as this year has proven, odder things have happened.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Those Down-Easters

For years, folks outside the I-95 corridor of North Carolina (basically anything west of Raleigh) have lamented the fact that North Carolina politics seem to sway the way of the down-east voter: those conservative, rural counties that were home to the Jessecrats from the early 1970s until 2002. But not only did the down-east crowd hold the power of votes, but also of the candidates. Current Governor Mike Easley and Lt. Governor, and now Democratic Gubernatorial nominee, Bev Perdue come from the hallowed ground of downeast. What's a non-downeaster to do? Well, we'll find out with Charlotte Mayor, and Republican Gubernatorial candidate, Pat McCrory. And we seem to have an early indication.

The News & Observer is reporting today that Mayor McCrory has named a "crew chief" for eastern North Carolina. While McCrory's strength will be in his home base, he will definitely need to break into the I-95 corridor this November to have a shot at the Governor's Mansion.

Looking at both Perdue's and McCrory's primary election wins, the attached two maps shows a possible reason why McCrory is naming a coordinator early in the campaign. The first map shows McCrory's county percentages in four categories: less than 45% within the county, 45-50%, 50-55%, and over 55% of the vote. As expected, McCrory's strongest counties were in the Charlotte media market. From Richmond and Montgomery through Mecklenburg up through Alexander and Caldwell counties, the name recognition and exposure that McCrory has received solidifies where Republicans traditionally do well: up the I-77 corridor and its surrounding counties.

Taking the same look at Perdue's strongest counties reveals a different story and electoral base. While she did well in several metropolitan counties, particularly along the I-85/40 corridors, it's the sea of dark counties with Perdue gaining over 55% of the vote in them that shows the continuing strength of Democratic governors and wanna-be governors using the downeast vote as a critical component.

While North Carolina elections are dominated by 14 to 15 counties (the major metropolitan counties and their surrounding areas deliver over 50% of the vote) out of 100 counties in the state, the battleground still lies down east. Both candidates will probably be looking at the cities and the I-95 rural counties to deliver their November victory.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Lurking Out There: Dole vs. Hagan

With all the concentration that Tar Heel voters got with the Democratic presidential primary and the other contested primaries (the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial primaries and other key Council of State races), little attention was paid to the U.S. Senate primaries. But now that we have the candidates down, some folks are beginning to wonder, what might happen with the Dole-Hagan U.S. Senate race?

The national landscape continues to look dismissal for the GOP, particularly when it comes to congressional races. On the U.S. House side of the Hill, watch the 8th Congressional race between long-time incumbent Robin Hayes, Republican, and second-time challenger Larry Kissell, Democrat. With all the attention that went to the N.C. 11th Congressional District in 2006 mid-term between Republican incumbent Charles Taylor and the winner Democrat Heath Shuler, the 8th district race went virtually unnoticed. But several weeks prior to the 2006 mid-term, an Elon Poll came out with Hayes in a very dangerous position: even though he rated high with "confidence" by respondents, he had a low-approval rating for a sitting incumbent (46% either approved or strongly approved). The end result from 2006: Kissell, running an under-funded but strong grass-roots campaign, came within 300+ votes of unsitting Hayes.

The key lesson from my studies of congressional campaigns: for sitting incumbents, you want your approval ratings in the 60s to ensure a chance at re-election.

Which brings us to Dole: in a February 2008 poll by Elon, barely 50% (50.7, to be exact) expressed approval of her work as a U.S. senator for the state, with 54.7% expressing satisfaction with her work. See the key lesson above--and this may indicate a race that is flying under the radar in terms of competitiveness.

If the DSCC (the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) decides to view the Tar Heel state as one that could be competitive with a solid nominee in Hagan (see recent some polls), we could have three very interesting state-wide battles going on at the presidential, gubernatorial, and U.S. senate levels in North Carolina.

Granted, with her extremely high name recognition level, abilities to raise money, and what appears to be her recognition of what might be a tough fight (see an article in the News & Observer), Dole has opportunities to boast her level. But going into what trends as an ugly year for congressional Republicans (the recent loss of three U.S. House seats to Democrats, two of which were in the deep South, in special elections), the undercurrent of resentment and discontent may take its toll on incumbents who would normally coast to an easy re-election bid.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Edwards Endorsement = White/Working-Class/Rural Vote? Or Something Else?

With former U.S. Senator and Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards' endorsement, what exactly does this bring to Sen. Obama's campaign?

  1. Someone who can speak the language of a group Obama is desperate for: working-class and rural white voters. While much can be made of the fact that Edwards couldn't bring his own state of North Carolina into the blue column in 2004 as vice-president (Bush won the state by 13 points), there is something to be said for being able to "bridge the divide" between the "gutter-ball elitism" that has been tarred to Obama and the southern-drawl, good-ole-boy (even though he lives in a multi-million dollar mansion) Edwards. One true test of how much this endorsement may help (or hurt) will be the upcoming Kentucky primary. But probably more important than attempting to bridge the working-class white vote is...
  2. The fact that Edwards is a critical superdelegate who can signal to others, "now is the time." Having the former vice presidential candidate and competitor sign on to your campaign plays a critical signal to other superdelegates that the water is fine, jump on in. While Sen. Obama has had a steady flow of superdelegates coming to him since NC & Indiana, I think this endorsement is designed more for the other 197 supers to begin to make their calls.

While Sen. Clinton publicly assured her supporters of going all the way, this endorsement may mean that her "it ain't over till it's over" will be over quicker than she realizes.

Strength in Numbers & Percentages

Based on the primary election for the gubernatorial nominations, both Bev Perdue (Democrat) and Pat McCrory (Republican) had very specific regions and areas that they were able to get at least 55% of the vote in a county. For many political scientists, when a candidate gets 55% of the vote, it's a clear indication of strength in numbers and percentages.

When looking at the counties where Perdue got 55% of the vote, it matches up with her home base, mostly in the "down east" counties of North Carolina. But you'll also notice in the PDF file that she did well in the I-85/40 corridor, starting in Mecklenburg County (home to Charlotte and Pat McCrory) through Forsyth (Winston-Salem) and Guilford (Greensboro) to Durham and Wake counties (Durham and Raleigh).

Looking at the counties where McCrory got 55% of the vote, it is so clear where his strength is, and that is with the Charlotte media/metro market. I also note where Fred Smith (the yellow counties in the PDF file), who was battling with McCrory in the primary, got his strength, and that was downeast as well.

A new poll from Public Policy Polling out of Raleigh has come out, and I'm still working on digesting it, but it appears that both Perdue and McCrory are tied at 45-45, with 9% undecided. While it is still 176 days until Nov. 4 at this writing, the Tar Heel governor's race will be one of the most closely battled, and probably watched, races. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Tar Heel Thumpin'

As I was watching the results come in at the news studio of WSOC in Charlotte, I was thinking before 7:30 PM, "so which poll got it right in North Carolina?" They were completely all over the place, anywhere from 3-13% with Obama leading. It seemed like in the past two weeks before the primary, Clinton was making up some serious ground and that she would pull another "rural surprise" in doing well in the rural areas of the state, much like she did in PA and OH.

Well, it's all over and it's been a thumpin, to quote Pres. Bush after the 2006 mid-term election. Obama needed to win North Carolina, and boy did he--by 14%. This, coupled with Indiana's close, close, close primary, has pretty much sealed the nomination for Obama.

But in looking at the NC exit polls (which, we all should acknowledge, should be taken with the requisite grain of salt--and remember, these exit polls didn't count early voters which were about 500,000 voters), Obama seemed to recuperate among several key voter-groups that he needed in order to secure the victory.

  • First, with about 34% of the electorate made up of black voters, he won a larger percentage then typically in the past, with 91% going for Obama.
  • White men, who made up 27% of the electorate's exit poll respondents, gave him 42, which compared to PA (44%) and OH (39%) is doing pretty well. It is still with white women (34% of the exit poll respondents) that Obama continues to struggle with, getting only 33% of their vote--not suprising at all, considering his opponent.
  • The "middle class" vote that he struggled with in both PA and OH returned solidly behind Obama, with only those making $50-99K giving him 52 to 53% of the vote. Other all categories were solidly behind him.
  • Likewise, all levels of education gave him majority support.
  • Two key types of voters were also important: those citing the economy and those citing the need for change supported him. Those listing the economy (60% of the respondents, second only to Indiana with the highest ranking in all of the primaries so far) went 53-45, while those wanting change (51% of the respondents) giving him overwhelming support, 77-22 over Clinton.
  • In the typical primary winning areas for Clinton, she usually got the late-deciders (and did so again in NC, 52-45), but she lost in the rural areas (52-45) and suburbs (53-46) that she normally counted on as her electoral base.

Once I get the certified results from the State Board of Elections with the precinct returns, I'll be posting some further analysis on the rural/urban/suburban voting patterns in NC to see how the "reality" matches up with the exit polls. Stay tuned (though it may be later in the summer once I get all the data and numbers crunched).

Friday, May 2, 2008

Where Might Clinton & Obama Watch for Votes on Tuesday?

After looking at some recent polls indicating that the race for the Democratic Presidential Primary is tightening in North Carolina, some deeper investigation and some historic trend analysis may point to some areas of the state that each candidate should be watching for on Tuesday evening:
  • For Sen. Clinton, turnout in the Blue Ridge Mountains, excluding Buncombe and its Asheville urban area, as well as turnout in the land of the Jesse-crats (down east, past Raleigh towards the coast) will be crucial. Obama will probably do well in Asheville, but the surrounding mountain counties are as staunchly rural and conservative as any rural county in Pennsylvania or Ohio--and that's where Clinton does best. The same is said for the flat-land, tobacco rural counties downeast.
  • For Sen. Obama, the turnout in the I-85/40 corridor in the middle of the state will be crucial for him to stave off the surge that Clinton appears to be making in the past week. As noted earlier, 15 counties will most likely provide over 50% of the vote in this election, and it comes along the Charlotte-Winston/Salem-Greensboro-Raleigh-Durham stretch of the state. Urban areas, with populations of black voters and highly-educated, high income voters, will be Obama's key areas.

So who does that leave? Suburban whites, in particular, will continue to play critical roles, as they have in the past. While Clinton will be watching her base on eastern and western parts of the state and Obama will be watching the middle part, all eyes will continue to be on suburban voters as the most likely king-maker of the Tar Heel presidential primary.

One other aspect to watch: how each candidate fairs in the various congressional districts that align with these regions. 38 delegates are to be allocated to presidential contenders based on the primary vote statewide, while 77 district delegates are to be allocated proportionally to presidential contenders based on the caucus and conventions results in each of the State's 13 congressional districts:
CD 1: 6
CD 2: 6
CD 3: 4
CD 4: 9
CD 5: 5
CD 6: 5
CD 7: 6
CD 8: 5
CD 9: 6
CD 10: 5
CD 11: 6
CD 12: 7
CD 13: 7

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Is Clinton Sneaking up in the Tar Heel State?

According to the newest poll released by the Public Policy Polling group, Sen. Clinton seems to be sneaking up on Sen. Obama in North Carolina. While Obama seems to hold a 51% lead in the state, Clinton is up to 39%, which, according to PPP, has cut the lead in half.

As PPP notes, the movement towards Clinton seems to come from white voters. According to the poll's breakdown among respondents' by race, Clinton has a 56%-35% lead among white voters (63% of the poll's respondents), with Obama garnering 83% to Clinton's 9% of black voters (33% of the poll's respondents). With an unexpectedly large turnout, it may appear that Obama continues to struggle among white voters--and today's endorsement by the white "Bubba" governor of North Carolina doesn't help Obama make inroads among those voters.

Another interesting note is the cross-tab analysis of those respondents who are Democrat versus those who are "unaffiliated" (N.C.'s primary is a semi-closed primary, meaning only those who are registered with the party or are "unaffiliated" (i.e., independent) can vote in the primary). Obama is garnering Democratic respondents 53%-38% (Democrats made up 88% of the poll's respondents), but Clinton is garnering unaffiliated respondents 47%-41% (12% of the respondents). This appears to be reverse of what we have typically seen in other primaries, with Obama getting unaffiliated/independents and Clinton getting the core Democrats.

One other curious breakdown: of those who indicated their area code, Clinton is doing extremely well in the 828 section of the state--basically the Western mountains of North Carolina. She is also making it close in the 336 area code, basically the Triad area of Greensboro & Winston-Salem, as well as in the Charlotte area of 704. The core counties that make up 50% of the vote are along the I-85/40 corridor, and an area that Obama needs to do well in if past elections indicate that Clinton will pull in the rural voters. Another suprise: Obama is doing well among those rural, "downeasters" that are often the "Jessecrats" of the state, in area codes 910 (Fayetteville) with 57%-33% over Clinton and 252 (Greenville) with 55%-33% over Clinton.

So what does this tell us? With less than a week to go, the Democratic presidential primary election is clear as mud in North Carolina.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Easley Endorses--Will It Help Clinton Attract Bubba?

News is breaking tonight that Governor Mike Easley, who has been reluctant to cast his support in past presidential primaries, has publicly endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton, giving a much needed superdelegate boast after her win in Pennsylvania. With both Democratic candidates (Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue and State Treasurer Richard Moore) supporting Sen. Obama, it would appear that the division among Democratic Tar Heel elites mirrors that of other states, especially akin to the most recent primary election in Pennsylvania (U.S. Senator Bob Casey and Governor Ed Rendell on opposite sides).

So what might Gov. Mike's support mean? Most importantly, it helps Clinton with the group that she has been doing best with--rural voters. Easley's past political support has been from the rural areas, and with Clinton doing extremely well with rural voters (in PA's exit poll, she beat Obama 63%-37%; in OH's exit poll, she beat him 70%-26%), she could easily erase the double-digit lead he has in the Tar Heel state and become very competitive here--but there's only a week to go. Of course, a lot of this is tied to how much Gov. Easley will be willing to actually go out and stump for her; Mike has been known around Raleigh (and the state) as someone with "better things to do" than necessarily govern. But if he were to actively go out and publicly support her, it may help build that country vote to counter Obama's strength in urban areas--which will leave the primary election's battleground (once again) to the suburbanities.

North Carolina seems to have some easy comparisons and contradictions to how Pennsylvania voted: most importantly, if Clinton can come with single-digits of Obama (or, even most improbable, beat him), then the Democratic race will enter a new stratosphere of confusion and chaos.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

NC's media markets = chopped liver for May 6's primary?

OK, so there's been some talk about North Carolina's media markets on the night of the PA primary (and the apparent Clinton win) and how much the Obama & Clinton campaigns will have to spend leading up to the May 6 primary. One commentator mentioned that there were only "small" markets in North Carolina. Really? Well, according to the latest Nielsen Media rankings of Designated Market Areas:

  • #25 in the nation: Charlotte (1,085,640 TV homes)
  • #28: Raleigh-Durham (1,039,890 homes)
  • #46: Greensboro-High Point-Winston-Salem (671,890 homes)

For those folks interested: 15 counties out of the 100 North Carolina counties in the state typically deliver 50% of the vote in North Carolina elections. The majority of those 15 super-counties are along the I-85/40 corridor, which basically starts in Charlotte (Mecklenberg County) up through Greensboro-High Point-Winston-Salem through to Raleigh-Durham (Wake County).

I really don't think that NC's media markets, which will focus most of the attention of the electorate on May 6th, should be classified as "small" by national commentators.

Some resources on NC Politics

There are some great websites that will help to explain NC Politics:

  • Rob Christensen has been following and writing about NC Politics for over 30 years; check out his webpage, as well as his new book, The Paradox of Tar Heel Politics, published by UNC Press.
  • Jack Betts is another important observer and columnist of the state's political landscape who writes for The Charlotte Observer; check out his web-blog.
  • North Carolina's State Board of Elections has numerous data about voter registration and election results.



Thanks for checking my new blog. And yes, I'm new at this, but not at North Carolina politics. I'm currently teaching politics at Catawba College in Salisbury, NC, and have become very interested in trying to understand Tar Heel politics (from all political perspective...Deacons, Dookies, Wolfpackers, etc.).

With the new attention that NC will gain because of the lateness of the Democratic primary (who would have thunk it?), I'm sure folks will turn their attention to our May 6th primary. I hope to help anyone who might be interested in trying to understand the state's political dynamics, along with the fact that we have some serious races for gubernatorial primaries, U.S. Senatorial primaries, as well as other state and local races. I also have the great opportunity to do some election analysis for WSOC-TV, the ABC affiliate in Charlotte, along with some other news organizations here locally.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me, and perhaps we can get some good conversations going about nc-politics. Michael

PS--and just so that you know, I am a registered "unaffiliated" voter in NC, and don't profess any political allegiances either way (and yes, you can check my voter registration at the NC State Board of Elections