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.