Postcard from the Carolinas

My in-laws voted the other day in Greenville, South Carolina. The county has set up eight machines for early voting, which has proven to be ...
by | October 23, 2008

Driveup_voting My in-laws voted the other day in Greenville, South Carolina. The county has set up eight machines for early voting, which has proven to be inadequate to the demand. They waited in line for 90 minutes, and the line was just as long by the time they were done. That county is expanding its hours and opening up voting on Saturdays.

The line wasn't too bad in Raleigh, North Carolina, when I walked by the other day. But the political people I talked to in North Carolina were struck by how well "the Obama people" were turning folks out for early voting. One person suggested that the Republicans were making up for this, to some extent, via their absentee voting campaign.

If you're reading a blog like this, though, you're probably already aware that polls indicate both that early voters are going overwhelmingly for Obama, and that many of the early voters are among those pollsters dismissed as not "likely voters." Obama has been doing better in polls that redefine likely voters as not only people who have voted regularly in the past, but are enthusiastic about turning out for this election in particular.

I wasn't in North Carolina to report on politics, but since I spoke with many politicians it was an inevitable subject.

People there were still getting over the surprise of being considered a swing state this late in the season. Remember that North Carolina, while electing mainly Democrats at the state level, hasn't supported a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976.

McCain might win North Carolina, but there's a chance that he'll get swept up either in an overall landslide -- or if the African American share of the state vote increases from its usual 21 percent of the electorate to 24 percent or so. That might well happen.

I spoke with a legislator from a liberal county in the Research Triangle who bragged about how local Democrats had long been known for their registration prowess and get out the vote operation. "But the Obama people came in," he said, "and found 11,000 more to register that we never found."

The question, he said, is whether they can turn out 9,000 of those new registrants. That kind of question is going to have an effect on the so-called down ballot races.

Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue, who is running for governor as a Democrat, has been struggling. In part, that's because North Carolina has had Democratic governors for the past 16 years, and there have been scandals great and small bedeviling Democrats in Raleigh over the past two to three years.

Pat McCrory, Perdue's opponent and the Republican mayor of Charlotte, has been running as the anti-incumbent, "change" candidate. He's also generally considered a more energetic campaigner than Perdue.

McCrory also benefits from something unexpected. Candidates from Charlotte have long been blocked from statewide office, with people in other regions of the state worrying about their parochial intentions. And yet McCrory appears to be benefiting from being the Charlotte candidate.

Voters in and around Charlotte identify themselves more with their region than their party, I was told by one lobbyist, and so many Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Democrats will be voting for McCrory, even as they vote Democratic for other offices. McCrory is considered a moderate Republican. "If he wasn't from Charlotte, we wouldn't even be having this conversation," said the lobbyist.

McCrory, considered a moderate Republican, has been showing narrow leads in recent polls.

Elizabeth Dole, the incumbent Republican U.S. senator, has been struggling in her race against state Sen. Kay Hagan. The National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee launched an ad that suggests Dole will be needed to act as a check against total Democratic control of the federal government. (Ironically, Republican congressional candidates back in 1996 similarly threw their presidential nominee, Bob Dole, overboard in making similar checks and balances arguments in that campaign.)

Ben Smith at Politico posted the ad today, noting that it appears to concede the White House to Obama. The NRSC took exception to this interpretation, but even their response seemed to amount to the same message:

"We are not conceding an Obama victory. Rather, we are highlighting what could be if a fiscally irresponsible liberal like Kay Hagan is elected to the Senate, especially if that is coupled with a Barack Obama Presidency," he emails.


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