Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Guest Post: North Carolina

Should Obama Hope North Carolina Will Change?
Kirkwood Callahan

In this season of political polls many other indicators of voters’ sentiment -- recent elections for example --are frequently overlooked by pundits. North Carolina is a case in point.

There ill winds blow for President Obama as North Carolina continues to define itself as a center-right state where voters are strongly motivated by social and economic issues. A dive into the election data of the past four years reveals little hope for the president

Though Obama pulled North Carolina from the Republican presidential fold in 2008 he did so with a plurality of only 14,177 votes, an edge of less than one half of one percent. Libertarian candidate Bob Barr received 25,722 votes, and the total write-in vote almost equaled Obama’s winning margin. The race was McCain’s to lose, and lose it he did.

The Arizona senator never had a strong connection with the state’s conservatives who were his natural base. When North Carolina Republicans ran media ads depicting the rants of Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor of many years, McCain publicly discouraged the continuation of the effort.

That same year Elizabeth Dole lost her Senate seat as the result of a weak campaign. The Democratic tide flowed down the ballot with the election of a Democratic governor.

North Carolina Republicans were not deterred by the 2008 outcome, and real change was in their future.

Republicans assumed control of both houses of their General Assembly in 2010 for the first time in almost a century and a half. This placed the GOP in control of the re-districting mandated by the 2012 Census, and energized conservatives.

By May of this year the presidential selections were all but fixed in stone, but the primaries gave North Carolinians an opportunity to show what was important to them.

Republicans had sponsored a ballot referendum on a constitutional amendment which defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. This aroused great opposition from supporters of gay marriage. This opposition in turn increased concern among social conservatives as to the outcome.

North Carolina already had a statute with a similar definition of marriage, but the concern of the amendment’s sponsors was that without a constitutional ban there was always the possibility that gay marriage would become permissible as the result of a ruling by an activist judge.

The outcome? The amendment passed by 61 percent, but most significant was the fact that 99 per cent of voters participating in the primary cast a vote on the issue – 10 percent more than voters in the presidential primaries.

The day after the passage of the amendment President Obama changed his position on same sex marriage. He became a supporter. His flip-flop not only went against the will of North Carolina’s voters, but ignored a 21 percent “No Preference” vote in their Democratic presidential primary. (“No Preference” received 5 percent in the GOP race.)

The state’s incumbent Democrat governor, Bev Perdue, who rode Obama’s coattails in 2008, realized the trends some time ago as she declined a re-match with former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory.

Meanwhile, on the economic front more bad news arrived. A recent report on July employment data put North Carolina’s unemployment at 9.6 percent, the fifth highest in the nation.

Obama has no realistic hope that the trends of 2012 can change and produce the outcome he savored in 2008. A supposed purpose for Obama’s selection of Charlotte as the site of his re-nomination was the renewal of his lock on North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes – a prize that could make a difference between victory and defeat. His reach has exceeded his grasp.

1 comment:

  1. As for Senator McCain, for whatever degree of heroism he deservedly enjoys for service and sacrifices to his country, he "led" a completely inept presidential campaign. That said, a long-time Tarheel (though no longer living there), I was appalled and embarrassed North Carolina went to Barack Obama. Good grief. Still closely connected to the state, I cannot imagine that happening again. If it does, a clear sign not to return.