North Carolina, a traditional Republican stronghold, took a sharp turn toward Barack Obama in the last several weeks. It's no secret GOP political strategists had sought to lock up the Tar Heel state early--it's voted Republican in 9 out of the past 10 presidential elections (Jimmy Carter, the last Democrat to prevail, won the state in 1976). But right now it's like a real nail biter. I've looked at some independent tracking polling conducted in battleground states between 2004 and 2008. While the generic Republican brand deteriorated in the past four years in all of them, North Carolina witnessed some of the most significant slippage in the percent of voters who self-identify as Republicans. So point one is this: The GOP generic environment in the state has been sinking for the past couple of years. But in the last few weeks, that weakness accelerated. This chart at Real Clear Politics shows the race clearly trending away from John McCain since the end of the Republican convention. Democrats have also dominated in new voter registration this. This post at the Democratic Strategist sums up the latest numbers:
Democrats have registered 194,000 new NC voters since January, compared to 28,500 for Republicans. An estimated 1/3 of all new voters are African Americans. NC voter registration ends 10/10, but voters can register and vote at the same time at "One-Stop Voting Sites" across the state between 10/16 and 11/1.
The political environment problems are affecting the Senate race in the Tar Heal state as well. The two latest surveys (one is a Democratic poll) now show challenger Kay Hagan in the lead leadand the Real Clear Politics overall average--and other analysts like Charlie Cook--now list the race as a toss-up. Why the tightening? North Carolina is a major U.S. financial center, the headquarters of Bank of America and the recently acquired Wachovia. I talked to a friend in the banking business in Charlotte yesterday who said this: "To say people are stressed down here due to the financial meltdown is an understatement. That anxiety is hurting John McCain and Elizabeth Dole." I know many who count electoral votes put the Tar Heel state in the GOP column based on history and August polling. Time to move it back to undecided.
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