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Up And Down The Ballot: Inside NC’s Super Tuesday Results

A map of North Carolina showing which counties went for former Vice President Joe Biden and which went for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
North Carolina State Board of Elections

Super Tuesday narrowed the Democratic presidential field to a race between two men: former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The majority of Democratic North Carolinians cast their ballots for Biden, giving him the state and adding fuel to his comeback after a landslide win in the South Carolina primary. And today former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he is suspending his campaign and endorsing Biden.

While the former vice president did well in Southern states and among black voters, Sanders captured young and progressive voters out west to win Utah, Colorado, Vermont and California. Moving down the ballot in North Carolina, most races went as expected — except for the Republican primary in the race for lieutenant governor. Political newcomer Mark Robinson defeated eight other candidates, including Mark Johnson, current superintendent of public instruction and former congresswoman Renee Ellmers. There were also two sitting state legislators who lost their primary elections.

There are only 11 gubernatorial races in the country this year, and from the conversations I've had with people, the belief is that for Republicans, [North Carolina] is the best opportunity to pick up an Executive Mansion. - Jeff Tiberii

Host Frank Stasio talks to reporters and analysts from around the state about the election results and what they mean for November. WUNC politics reporter Rusty Jacobs and WUNC Capitol Bureau ChiefJeff Tiberii share their on-the-ground reporting from Republican and Democratic primaries in the state and look at the larger trends in these results. Tiberii shares results from the U.S. Senate Democratic primary, in which former state lawmaker Cal Cunningham defeated state Sen. Erica Smith and three other candidates.

Stasio talks to political scientists Deondra Rose, Michael Bitzer and Susan Roberts for their analysis of Super Tuesday results in North Carolina and around the country. Rose is an assistant professor of public policy and political science and the director of research for POLIS: Center for Politics at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. Bitzer is a professor of politics and history at Catawba College. And Roberts is a professor of political science at Davidson College.

Reporters Vince Winkel and Matt Bush share community reaction and local election results from their parts of the state. Winkel is with WHQR in Wilmington and Bush is the news director for Blue Ridge Public Radio in Asheville.
 

You could almost sense that [conservatives] would have liked to be running against or see Bernie Sanders win and prevail in North Carolina, because they're casting as very much an 'us versus them' fight. - Rusty Jacobs

Interview Highlights

Bitzer on regional turnout:

A graph showing how Democrats voted, based on candidate and vote method.
Credit Michael Bitzer
Data from Michael Bitzer, professor of political science at Catawba College.

In the preliminary numbers that I've seen and been able to crunch so far, it looks like turnout was significantly up in these major urban counties. So Wake County, Mecklenburg County, Guilford, Buncombe. But then when you get out into rural counties — particularly on the Democratic side — the numbers just fell off. So I think what we're seeing is a continuing part of the narrative of North Carolina politics: urban counties moving more Democratic [and] rural counties moving more Republican. And that's shown in the numbers of who's taking ballots for which political party.

Rose on how Democrats can unite at the top of the ballot:

I imagine that we could absolutely see segments of the electorate that feel that the selected candidate does not reflect them sitting it out, if they're not inspired enough. So I think that's why it's incumbent on the Democratic Party and whoever gains the nomination to pick a vice presidential person to share the ticket who signals like an olive branch to that other constituency or that other segment of the electorate.

Roberts on the political implications of the coronavirus:

Trump's characterization of this as a hoax is going to be out of circulation quite soon, because people are taking it personally and not politically. I think that Trump's response to the natural disaster in Puerto Rico — in which he threw paper towels — his fear mongering about immigrants; and what you could call his kind of schizophrenic view of where we are in the world and global politics … I think Trump will have some baggage when it comes to that. And I think Trump's Teflon has been the economy. And we'll see what happens there.

 

Amanda Magnus is the executive producer of Embodied, a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships and health. She has also worked on other WUNC shows including Tested and CREEP.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
Jeff Tiberii is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Jeff joined WUNC in 2011. During his 20 years in public radio, he was Morning Edition Host at WFDD and WUNC’s Greensboro Bureau Chief and later, the Capitol Bureau Chief. Jeff has covered state and federal politics, produced the radio documentary “Right Turn,” launched a podcast, and was named North Carolina Radio Reporter of the Year four times.
Rusty Jacobs is WUNC's Voting and Election Integrity Reporter.
Vince Winkel joined the WHQR news team in March, 2017. He had previously been covering business and economics for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.
Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.
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