Carolina in My Mind

 

In today’s edition of the Washington Post, we have what strikes me as some good old-fashioned campaign spin: the idea that the Obama re-elect is poised to win North Carolina a second time.

If you hate lazy political reporting, then this is one story you can afford to miss.

The writer relies far too much on speculation: North Carolina has more of a transitional population than other southern states, with out-of-state Yankees diluting the conservative voting pool; the Democratic governor is working hard to put local Republian lawmakers on the defensive; the Democratic National Convention in coming to town (Charlotte) next summer.

I’ll give you two simple reasons why, at this point, the Post is wrong — and North Carolina is problematic for Obama.

1) Timing. Check out the 2008 polls. John McCain enjoyed a healthy lead in North Carolina coming out of Labor Day. The financial crisis put a halt to that, deflating McCain’s numbers and giving Obama crucial momentum going down the home stretch. This time around, it’s the opposite dynamic: Obama needs a spate of positive economic news to tweak the numbers in his direction. Such news hasn’t been forthcoming of late, has it?

2) Turnout. Obama won North Carolina by 14,000 votes in the last presidential election, out of 4.3 million votes overall. Statewide turnout was 69%. African-American turnout was an astonishing 95% (Obama winning 95% of it). The same surge won’t be there for Obama next year — re-elects just aren’t as exciting as first-time propositions. I’m also willing to wager that the big-spending, economic-sideways president — not the hopeful newcomer, but a sitting president with a complicated record — won’t fare as well along the populous I-85 corridor that stretches from Charlotte toward the Research Triangle. Combined, that should give a competitive Republican nominee an excellent chance at carrying the state.

So why would the Post bother to offer up this story?

Don’t play the mainstream-media conspiracy card. Instead, credit the Obama campaign with doing its job — and making a hard sale. In this case, it’s the notion that Obama not only can win North Carolina, but also is playing for keeps in Georgia and Texas.

This is what smart campaigns do. They talk up their cause. They sell the idea of competition where it maybe doesn’t exist. They attempt to confuse their opponent. They try to establish a media narrative. Obama aides want the press to believe that the Democrats will try to expand the electoral map in 2012; the reality is the president’s campaign, like any re-elect effort, is taking a defensive approach and figuring how best to secure the magic 270 electoral votes.

I read this story and I wonder: where’s the Republican National Committee’s hard sell — not its reaction to this particular spin shot, but a pro-active effort to create an electoral narrative that talks up the GOP cause?

Why aren’t we seeing stories about the GOP’s efforts to secure Missouri (McCain by 3,900 votes), win back traditional GOP states (Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia) and compete where the GOP normally takes a pass (New Jersey)?

It won’t do much to change the larger dynamics of this election, but a better sales job on the Democratic incumbent’s vulnerability, coming from the party’s braintrust, might gives its base something else to think about besides the challengers’ shortcomings.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DanielSattelberger

    I’d also note that, if not for the Libertarian candidate, McCain would likely have won North Carolina. He lost to Obama by 14,000 votes, and the Libertarian got 25,000.

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  2. Profile Photo Inactive
    @rr

    I wouldn’t underestimate the influx of young, liberal voters down in this part of Dixie.

    To quote the Yonder Mountain String Band (hip new bluegrass band):

    “It used to be that everyone I knew was moving to Colorado. Now, everyone I know is moving to North Carolina. And I get it too.”

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  3. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MatthewGilley

    “Lazy political reporting” is probably generous. A few things I’d like to mention to the Post:

    1. That new Republican legislative majority they mention in passing – it’s the first Republican majority in both houses of the N.C. General Assembly since Reconstruction. The voters elected that majority last year. Not exactly a reason for optimism, I’d say.

    2. Bob “Who Are You” Etheridge lost his chokehold on the 2nd Congressional District (again, last year). Before Etheridge lost, the 2nd was Democrat for all but two years since 1901. Even Heath Shuler, the supposed darling Blue Dog, fought off a challenger in the 11th District (Asheville and the western mountains) by running to his opponent’s right on taxes. Also not what I’d call reasons for optimism.

    3. Jesse Helms is dead. That well is dry. Stop sending the bucket down for water.

    Republicans can’t rest on North Carolina. However, pointing to things like IBM and Glaxo as reasons Obama is strong in North Carolina (by the way, why not Bank of America, Nucor, RBC, BB&T, Wells Fargo, Reynolds, Lorillard, SAS, Red Hat, VF or Lowe’s?) is howl-at-the-moon stupid.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DanielSattelberger
    Matthew Gilley:

    2. Bob “Who Are You” Etheridge lost his chokehold on the 2nd Congressional District (again, last year). Before Etheridge lost, the 2nd was Democrat for all but two years since 1901. Even Heath Shuler, the supposed darling Blue Dog, fought off a challenger in the 11th District (Asheville and the western mountains) by running to his opponent’s right on taxes. Also not what I’d call reasons for optimism.

    The 2nd District seat was held by Republican David Funderburk from 1995 to 1997.

    The Democrats, meanwhile, still hold 7 of the states thirteen congressional districts, a slim majority, and the only seat to switch this year was Etheridge’s, which was a very close race, and Etheridge was probably quite damaged from the “Who Are You” incident.

    Hang On: Perdue, the current governor, is in the toilet as far as her polling goes. That is going to hurt Obama (and other Democrats) by depressing Democrat turnout unless there is a large economic recovery.

    The only polling I’ve seen for the race has McCrory as the Republican. If he doesn’t run, what do you think Perdue’s chances are?

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  5. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MatthewGilley
    Dan IV

    The 2nd District seat was held by Republican David Funderburk from 1995 to 1997.

    Yep. Hence my notation that the seat had been blue for all but two years since 1901. Sloppy drafting by me.

    Dan IV

    The Democrats, meanwhile, still hold 7 of the states thirteen congressional districts, a slim majority

    Let’s just call it a 6-6 tie; I can’t take the 12th District seriously. And let’s not forget that the new Republican Assembly will control redistricting, which includes an additional fourteenth seat.

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  6. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DanielSattelberger
    Matthew Gilley

    Yep. Hence my notation that the seat had been blue for all but two years since 1901. Sloppy drafting by me.

    Sorry. I must not have noticed that. My mistake.

    Dan IV

    The Democrats, meanwhile, still hold 7 of the states thirteen congressional districts, a slim majority

    Let’s just call it a 6-6 tie; I can’t take the 12th District seriously.

    Taking a look at it, I can’t either. Most of them are pretty odd. I also notice that, with the exception of Ellmers, all the Republicans won with much larger majorities than the Democrats, so I wonder whether the congressman ratio is a particularly accurate method of reading a state’s political demographics.

    For an example of this, take a look at this.

    And let’s not forget that the new Republican Assembly will control redistricting, which includes an additional fourteenth seat.

    Don’t the results have to be approved by the Governor in most states?

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Member
    @HangOn

    Hang On: Perdue, the current governor, is in the toilet as far as her polling goes. That is going to hurt Obama (and other Democrats) by depressing Democrat turnout unless there is a large economic recovery.

    The only polling I’ve seen for the race has McCrory as the Republican. If he doesn’t run, what do you think Perdue’s chances are?

    ————————————————————

    I know one of McCrory’s main consultants. I haven’t seen him in a couple of months, but indications then were he’s going to run. Perdue’s approve/disapprove are about -20 level.

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  8. Profile Photo Member
    @HangOn

    Matthew Gilley:

    Let’s just call it a 6-6 tie; I can’t take the 12th District seriously. And let’s not forget that the new Republican Assembly will control redistricting, which includes an additional fourteenth seat.

    —————————————-

    No, there will only be 13 seats. (Link here)

    The 12th district is a majority minority district. It may very well survive to get the plan past the Justice Dept. The district maps are supposed to be released in June. There are likely to be two majority minority districts still or possibly one more. It would be easy to place Congressman Price in a majority minority district.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MatthewGilley
    Hang On: Matthew Gilley:

    Let’s just call it a 6-6 tie; I can’t take the 12th District seriously. And let’s not forget that the new Republican Assembly will control redistricting, which includes an additional fourteenth seat.

    —————————————-

    No, there will only be 13 seats. (Link here)

    The 12th district is a majority minority district. It may very well survive to get the plan past the Justice Dept. The district maps are supposed to be released in June. There are likely to be two majority minority districts still or possibly one more. It would be easy to place Congressman Price in a majority minority district. ยท Jun 1 at 5:57am

    Good catch – I was wrong. I’m in SC and mistakenly assumed NC would gain a seat, too. Your point about the two majority minority districts is a good answer to Dan IV’s post above – the biggest hurdle to NC redistricting will probably be the DOJ’s Voting Rights Act review, not Governor Purdue.

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  10. Profile Photo Member
    @HangOn

    Don’t forget NC historical voting pattern of Democratic candidates for Governor vs. for President. Even in 2008 when Obama had his turnout for him, the pattern was the same with Perdue taking 2,146,189 to Obama’s 2,142,651. Democrats running for Governor always pull more votes than candidates running for President. Perdue, the current governor, is in the toilet as far as her polling goes. That is going to hurt Obama (and other Democrats) by depressing Democrat turnout unless there is a large economic recovery. And considering housing is taking a double dip, that’s pretty unlikely. I hope the Obama campaign blows a lot of money in NC. Of course, they’re going to have a lot of money to blow.

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  11. Profile Photo Member
    @TomDavis

    I live in eastern NC and do not see how Obama can carry NC unless the Republicans really screw up or unless the Republicans make a huge rebound.

    Mike Easley, North Carolina’s immediate past governor has plead guilty to a felony and that was after a very good plea bargain on his part that I still do not understand. His chief aide is heading to prison.

    As noted, Obama only won here by 14,000 votes. The only thing in NC’s economy that is going well is agriculture and I don’t know of one farmer who ever votes for a Democrat for president. The Republicans and the Blue Dog Dems are going to be more excited about any credible Republican than they were about Mr. McCain.

    Contrary to the conventional wisdom, I believe that the influx of Yankees will not hurt the Republicans. The Yankee imports helped pull NC into the Blue state category about 35 years ago.

    Obama is going to have to spend huge sums in Pennsylvania and Ohio and Florida and other swing states to have a chance of winning those and even then he will fail in many of them.

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