My home state of North Carolina is one of the key swing states in the 2012 presidential election. While Romney and Obama will compete heavily for the prize of the state's electoral votes, it seems many of the states' voters feel this election is a losing situation either way. The state will receive a lot of attention between now and November, but the overall mood is less enthusiastic than it was four years ago when the huge voter turnout helped Obama to narrowly defeat John McCain.
Two months prior to the election, no one (including myself) thought Obama could win, as reports speculated he would pull his campaign out of North Carolina to focus on more crucial states like Ohio and Florida. While North Carolina has been referred to as a “swing state” for the past several elections, Republicans consistently held their ground here winning by at least five points in all but one election between 1968 and 2004. The lone exception was in 1976, when North Carolinians went with Southern Democrat Jimmy Carter.
In terms of the margin of difference in victory, the state was the second closest race in the nation in 2008 with Obama prevailing by three tenths of a point. This makes it a huge battleground this year, as both candidates pump in a huge influx of cash to run ads vying for the support of voters. Garnering support will be an uphill climb, as it does not seem there is much to be found here for either Romney or Obama.
The key to North Carolina boils down to two key demographics. The evangelical vote plays a large role in the outcome for Republicans, while Obama’s surprising victory in 2008 was largely due to the record turnout of African-American voters. Although my evangelical friends and family are not the least bit enthusiastic about Romney, most of my African-American friends are over the hype that was key to Obama’s success in 2008. My brother and a close friend of his, both Southern Baptist ministers, have already determined not to vote because they cannot justify electing a Mormon. My African-American friends feel that things have not gotten much better for them since Obama became president. It seems difficult to find anyone who has love for either candidate.
I believe this is why ads in North Carolina are trending more towards attacks of the other guy rather than pleading for support. So far, it seems Obama has pumped more money in the state than Romney. This week, two ads played quite frequently. Both attack Romney for "shipping jobs overseas." This one seems the most powerful:
Romney has responded to the outsourcing attacks with this ad, which criticizes President Obama's character:
The Republican National Committee is running a much lighter ad. The ad, which does not mention Romney, points out Obama's big plans to fix the economy and how the plans have failed. It closes with the statement, "he tried, you tried, it's okay to make a change."
While the ads are definitely in full swing, most North Carolinians seem turned off to politics this the summer. Others have checked out of this election altogether. These now seem to define politics by breaking up its syllables so as to say, “Poly means many and ticks are blood-sucking creatures.”
This adds up to the likely conclusion that the turnout in North Carolina will be less than the record-setting numbers of 2008. My prediction is that the African-American voter turnout will not be near as strong as it was four years ago. While some typically faithful evangelical voters will stay home, there are enough of those who absolutely hate Obama and will go to the polls. This will tip the state in Romney’s favor, but by a very close margin, probably within three points.