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5 Days to Election Day: North Carolina

When discussing North Carolina, there is only one important number- 21,000. That was Obama’s margin of victory in 2008. One cannot see him replicating anything near that performance this year. Obama’s approval ratings in the Tar Heel State are stubbornly in the mid 40s range while their economy is showing a slower-than-average rebound. The Democratic Party in the state is weakened and in disarray. In 2008, Obama took 12 counties that Kerry failed to capture in 2004. However, only three of them had a population greater than 100,000 voters and only one- Cumberland- had a significant minority population. With turnout expected to be below 2008 levels, those are lost votes for Obama, not Romney.

But there are two more reasons for believing that Romney will win this state. Obamacare is still an issue here and hangs like an albatross around the necks of every Democrat in North Carolina. Three of North Carolina’s current representatives voted against Obamacare and are still either threatened, or have announced their retirement. Secondly, the ink was barely dry on the May gay marriage referendum results when Obama came to his great same sex marriage evolution/epiphany. If I were a resident of North Carolina, I would read the timing of that announcement as a slap in the collective faces of the voters who had spoken on the issue in North Carolina. For all these reasons, Mitt Romney will take their 15 electoral votes and not by as close a margin as recent polls may suggest, but in the 52-53% range.

As was mentioned earlier, the Democratic Party is in disarray in the state. The head of the party- David Parker- became embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal. He then resigned only to have that resignation rejected by a vote of the party members. Since they had no rules to deal with resignations, he was reinstated. The previous Democratic Governor, Mike Easley, pled guilty to felony charges. Then, current Governor Bev Perdue came under a federal and state investigation regarding improprieties regarding her campaign finances, mainly revolving around the use of an airplane. And, of course, the face (and hair) of the Democratic Party in North Carolina for years- John Edwards- was indicted for the slime that he is.

All of this played against a background of a Democratic Governor in charge, but losing control. Even her good performance during Hurricane Irene could not help. Not exactly a landslide victory in 2008, Perdue defeated Pat McCrory who let it be known early that he intended to run against her again in 2012. Surveying her chances and the political landscape- not to mention her dismal approval ratings among North Carolinians- she opted not to run for a second term. Another reason was the GOP wave of 2010 that extended to the state level in many states, North Carolina included. She now had to deal with a Republican legislature and found it increasingly difficult to advance her agenda. Thus, the current Lt. Governor, Walter Dalton, became the frontrunner and eventual primary winner over former Representative Bob Etheridge.

McCrory, on the other hand, faced a slate of relative unknown opponents in his primary and cruised to victory with 83% of the vote. He was the highly popular 14-year mayor of Charlotte who retired to the private sector as he built up his Republican base for what he thought would be a rematch against Perdue. Along the way, he picked up the support of moderate Democrats and independents. In 2008, he received the endorsement of most of the state’s newspapers which traditionally endorse Democrats. He was one of the leading voices against same sex marriage that led to that referendum vote in May. Simply put, McCrory will be the next Republican Governor of North Carolina.

The current House delegation is actually 7-6 in favor of the Democrats. However, two- Heath Shuler and Brad Miller- have announced their retirement. In addition to these two, there are two other Democrats who face challenges this year with at least one of them likely to lose.

The 7th District lies in the southern corner of the state along the South Carolina border and is centered in Fayatteville. It is rated as a +5 Republican district by the Cook Political Report. It has been represented by Mike McIntyre since 1997. In 2010, he barely defeated a relative unknown in Iliaro Pantano, his closest election since 1996. Considered a social conservative, he once thought of resigning his seat in a run for Governor. In the Republican primary, state senator David Rouzer defeated Pantano by about 3,000 votes. He is a former aid to two North Carolina Republican heavyweights- Jesse Helms and Elizabeth Dole. Rouzer has kept pace in the fundraising area and both parties have pumped money into this race. Some internal polling by Rouzer indicates he leads by 9 points which seems rather high. If he wins, the margin will not be that large, although it would, at this point, seem McIntyre will prevail.

In the neighboring 8th district, Democrat Larry Kissell faces a similar challenge. Redistricting made this a decidedly more Republican-leaning district. Kissell first won the district in 2008 and beat Harold Johnson in 2010 by ten points- a good showing for a Democratic opponent in a bad year for Democrats. Kissell opposed Obamacare from the start and has drawn the ire of North Carolina unions. His opponent will be Richard Hudson who had to endure a runoff against Scott Keadle. Hudson has received the endorsement of Mike Huckabee and Paul Ryan along the way. The latest polls again show him up by about nine points and although a little high, if any incumbent Democrat is to be defeated in North Carolina, it will likely be Kissell.

Heath Shuler is vacating the 11th District. First elected in 2006, he has been a fairly reliable conservative Democrat. In 2010, he challenged Nancy Pelosi for the minority leadership in the House and should be commended for that effort. Although redistricting likely played a large role in his decision to retire, his run-ins with the House Democratic leadership also played a role. In redistricting, a large chunk of traditionally Democratic areas were moved out of this district. Hayden Rogers, who was Shuler’s chief-of-staff, won the Democratic primary. He will face real estate investor Mark Meadows who defeated the Tea Party-favored Vance Patterson in a runoff. Redistricting dictates a Republican victory here in 2012.

The political dynamics of the 13th District are a little different, but Brad Miller decided to retire. The 13th became more conservative as his district overlapped the neighboring 4th. Miller decided to retire rather than potentially oppose fellow Democrat David Price. Charles Malone, the Democratic candidate faces a serious uphill battle in this race. He will face George E.B. Holding who has built up an impressive record as the US Attorney for Esatern North Carolina. Besides indicting terrorists, convicting child pornographers, and being involved in the investigations of Easley and Perdue, he also is the man who indicted John Edwards for using campaign funds to cover up his sexual affair and love child. Although he eventually lost the case in court, his profile was only enhanced in the state. He is the likely winner.

In conclusion: Pat McCrory will be the next Republican Governor of North Carolina while Mitt Romney will capture their 15 electoral votes. The current House delegation is 7-6 for the Democrats. After election day, it will favor the GOP at least 9-4, if not 10-3.

Running totals thus far: Obama leads in the electoral vote count 243-229 while Republicans lead in the Senate 48-44 and in the House 200-177.

Next: Virginia

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