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Romney And Obama Fighting For NC Votes

The Democratic Convention begins today in Charlotte. The Democrats picked the city because they believed North Carolina would again be a crucial battleground state – and they hoped the convention would give them a boost in trying to win it for President Barack Obama. But at least according to one poll, the President trails Republican Mitt Romney in North Carolina. The Democrats are hoping to use the new demographics of the South to defy the pollsters.

Dave DeWitt: Four years ago, Barack Obama defeated John McCain by just 14-thousand votes in North Carolina. That breaks down to just 140 votes in each of the state’s 100 counties – the smallest margin of victory for the President in any state in 2008. But that was 4 years ago…

Charlie Cook: To me there are 11 swing states and North Carolina is the only one where Mitt Romney has a measurable lead.

Charlie Cook is an analyst with MSNBC and the editor of the Cook Political Report. That “measurable lead” comes from yesterday’s release of the Elon Poll. It shows Romney with a 4-point lead in the state. Cook also says North Carolina is becoming - politically, at least - more of a mid-Atlantic state than a southern one. Some longtime southerners, like UNC-Chapel Hill faculty member Ferrell Guillory, agree.

Ferrell Guillory: People who have moved into the state in the last 10 to 20 years are much more likely to be Obama voters, older southerners are much more likely to be Republican Romney voters.

That’s not a surprise to anyone in the metropolitan areas of North Carolina. But for those whose families have spent generations in the south, it’s a stark change. Hodding Carter is a former journalist and now on the faculty at UNC Chapel Hill. His father famously championed civil rights as a newspaper editor in Mississippi. He says the influx of new residents is welcome.

Hodding Carter: whether they are Yankees coming in, whether Hispanics coming in, black folks coming back, you name it, it’s a different place entirely. We are practically American now.

In 2008, Barack Obama won the state thanks to a coalition made up largely of these “new” southern voters and African-Americans. In 2012, African-American voters in North Carolina are still with him by a remarkable 89 percent to 1 percent for Romney. But the President has lost ground among white voters, down from 35 percent in 2008 to 32 percent now, according to the Elon Poll. That’s one of the numbers the Obama Campaign will try to overcome, and one of the reasons they brought the convention to Charlotte. Patrick Gaspard is the Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee.

Patrick Gaspard: The only bump that we’re looking for is to energize the activist core in the state of North Carolina and continue to register voters and build that awareness.

The Obama ground game is being answered by a carpet-bombing of Romney TV ads. Charlie Cook doesn’t think that strategy will have much effect.

Cook: The law of diminishing returns was hit long ago. Both sides have more money than they know what to do with. In the top seven states you’ve had saturation level advertising since early June, and so it’s now the point where people are tuning out.

The TV ads, of course, will continue for 6 more weeks. The Obama Campaign will likely mobilize their people on the ground. And Romney and Paul Ryan will likely visit often. Political analysts agree that President Obama can lose North Carolina and still get re-elected; Mitt Romney, however must win here. Durham native, CNN pundit, and Harvard professor David Gergen says he likely will.

David Gergen: This is a state that is rapidly changing but I’m not sure it’s changed enough for Barack Obama this time out.

Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Feature News Editor. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.
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