Monday, July 16, 2018

Where Is The Uproar Over Charlotte's #RNC2020 Bid Coming From?

With the pending decision by the Charlotte City Council on whether to formalize the bid for hosting the Republican National Committee's 2020 Presidential Nominating Convention causing a great deal of controversy in the Queen City, it might be good to step back and see the transition that Charlotte has undergone, and continues to do so, in its political behavior and how its politics, especially at the presidential level, is playing out.

First, a word about the methodology used for the below illustrative maps: for a while, I have adapted Charlie Cook's Partisan Voter Index, or PVI, to illustrate how precincts vote in comparison to the national performance of the presidential candidates. So, for example, if a presidential candidate received 52 percent of the national vote, and a precinct voted for that same candidate with 57 percent of the vote, that precinct would be a "+5" to that presidential candidate's party.

Thus, one can assign a "score" of plus whichever party in comparison to the party's national performance. For each presidential election since 2004, I have taken Mecklenburg County's precinct votes, compared them to each presidential performance, and then averaged the 2004-08, 2008-12, and 2012-16 results, with the following coding scheme:

  • A "Likely" Republican precinct if the average PVI is R+10 or greater
  • A "Lean" Republican precinct if the average PVI is R+3 to 10
  • A "Toss Up/Competitive" precinct if the average PVI is R+2 to D+2
  • A "Lean" Democratic precinct if the average PVI is D+3 to D+10
  • A "Likely" Democratic precinct if the average PVI is D+10 or greater

So, taking the precinct results for the 2004 and 2008 presidential election and averaging them, one finds that Mecklenburg County, with the City of Charlotte's council districts in the yellow lines, to look like this:

Notice several "baseline" observations:

  • The northern part of Mecklenburg County (above the City of Charlotte) is generally deep red, with the exception of the precinct that is home to Davidson College
  • A good portion of Charlotte's "core" is deep blue
  • When you get into the areas of South Charlotte, such as Myers Park and South Park leading down to the South Carolina state line, it looks like a "Republican wedge" 
  • Very few precincts are green, meaning a competitive or toss-up precinct based 

Next, the PVIs for the 2008-12 presidential election:

Now, notice a couple of key differences between this map and the one with the 2004-08 PVIs:

  • North Mecklenburg (above the Charlotte city limits) precincts are beginning to transition, from deep red (likely GOP) to light red (lean GOP), with one precinct going to competitive/toss-up status
  • Within the middle of the county, Charlotte core precincts move to deep blue (likely Democratic) across the swath of most of the city
  • The south Charlotte "Republican wedge" begins to fade from deep red to spots of light red and green, especially along the south-eastern border of the city

Now, the third map shows the PVIs for the 2012-16 averages:

Note the following in this map:

  • The collapse of the "Republican wedge" in South Charlotte towards a competitive/toss-up status
  • The solidification of the core Charlotte precincts towards deep blue (likely Democratic)
  • The continued transition of north Mecklenburg County towards a competitive/toss-up or lean Republican behavior
  • Very few "likely Republican" precincts are left, when compared to the 2004-08 map, in the county (the northwestern and southeastern precincts of the county)

To say that Charlotte has become a "Democratic" city is an understatement; just look at last year's mayoral contest to see it align more closely with its typically voting patterns in even-year elections. And with the Queen City becoming such a blue-dominated area, the reaction against having a candidate be renominated in a county that barely one-third of the voters cast their ballots for, is there any wonder why such an uproar is occurring?