Bloomberg News

Obama In Uphill Fight to Win North Carolina as Convention Nears

September 03, 2012

Obama In Uphill Fight to Win North Carolina as Convention Nears

Peter Williams, with United Auto Workers Local 5283, before the start of the "Charlotte Labor Day Parade" on September 3, 2012 on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. Photographer: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

President Barack Obama has an uphill battle to win North Carolina again, though he’s keeping the race close enough to make Republican nominee Mitt Romney spend money in a state that Romney must carry to win the Nov. 6 election.

That’s according to political analysts who discussed a survey of North Carolina voters released today in Charlotte, where the Democratic National Convention opens tomorrow. Romney led Obama 47 percent to 43 percent in North Carolina while the Republican National Convention was underway last week in Tampa, Florida, according to the Elon University survey of 1,089 likely voters conducted Aug. 25-30.

“I think you will see the Obama campaign stay here in North Carolina because North Carolina is a must-win state for Romney,” said Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Romney “cannot possibly get to” a 270-vote Electoral College majority “without North Carolina, and the Obama campaign knows that.”

Romney and allied groups ran 12,635 ads in North Carolina in the 30-day period ended Aug. 27, compared with 6,126 for Obama and groups aiding his campaign, according to data from Kantar Media’s CMAG.

Romney led by 59 percent to 32 percent among white voters, and Obama led by 89 percent to 1 percent among black voters, the Elon survey found.

White voters accounted for 72 percent of the North Carolina electorate in 2008, and Obama won 35 percent of their votes, helping him carry North Carolina by three-tenths of one percentage point.

Carolina Rules

A “rule of thumb” in North Carolina politics is that a black candidate needs 35 percent of white voters to have a chance at carrying the state, according to Taylor Batten, editorial page editor of the Charlotte Observer.

North Carolina voted Republican in every presidential election from 1980 to 2004, though it’s become more competitive partly because of an influx of white voters who aren’t from the state.

“This is a state that is rapidly changing,” though it may not have “changed enough for Barack Obama this time out,” said David Gergen, a North Carolina native who’s advised presidents of both parties.

“I think he’s got something of an uphill fight,” Gergen said, pointing to a poll finding that young voters -- a key part of Obama’s 2008 winning coalition -- are less enthusiastic about the election than voters in other age groups.

The Elon College poll surveyed 1,089 likely voters from Aug. 25 to Aug. 30 and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. Surveys ended at 9 p.m. on Aug. 30, just before Romney’s speech to the Republican National Convention.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Charlotte, North Carolina, at ggiroux@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net


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