While everybody talks about Virginia, New Jersey and New York’s 23rd (well, many conservatives actually don’t want to talk about this one), very little attention is being paid to the newest swing state, North Carolina (exactly a year ago Obama won it by a whopping margin of 0.32%). North Carolina is already among the top ten most populous states, has 15 electoral college votes and is likely to get more after next year’s census. It used to be a reliably Republican state in presidential elections (even Bob Dole managed to carry it by almost 5%), and the Republicans have virtually no chance of defeating Obama in 2012 without winning it back. I posted a detailed analysis of the GOP’s decline in N.C. shortly after the launch of this site. So, what can yesterday’s election tell us about the latest state of the GOP in North Carolina?
Unfortunately, it’s a mixed bag. In a pleasant surprise Republican Bill Knight ousted the incumbent Democratic mayor of Greensboro Yvonne Johnson. Winning a mayoral election in a city of a quarter million people clearly demonstrates that the N.C. GOP is not dead yet. Unfortunately, Greensboro will now be the only North Carolina city with a population over 100,000 that has a Republican mayor. After an unbroken 22yearstring of Republican mayors, Charlotte yesterday elected a Democrat, Anthony Foxx. The Democrats also won 8 out of 11 seats on the city council. Furthermore, the Republicans did not even pretend to try – the GOP fielded a grand total of 6 candidates for those 11 seats (on the positive side though the party can claim a 50% success rate, since 3 of those 6 candidates won), while the Democrats contested each and every seat. The campaign seemed to be halfhearted. I received just a couple of mailers and a handful of robocalls. There was no get-out-the-voter effort in sight – not even a single call on election day (and in a low turnout election just 3240 extra Republicans would have swung the outcome). The party seemed to be demoralized.
These developments are very worrisome because they suggest that the GOP has trouble connecting with young urban professionals (whose influx makes Charlotte one of the fastest growing American cities). Cultural appeal to the ever shrinking small town America can only take the party this far, and it is working less and less even in the South. North Carolina can now boast only three Republican office holders who have won a statewide election: a U.S. Senator (who is by no means guaranteed to win reelection next year), State Commissioner of Agriculture and State Commissioner of Labor (for comparison, the Dems hold another Senate seat and eight statewide offices). The Republicans hold only 5 out of 13 N.C. seats in the House of Representatives (just 3 years ago they had 7 – as well as both Senate seats). The North Carolina Senate is split with 30 Democrats and 20 Republicans and the House is split with 68 Democratic and 52 Republican members. Finally, as already noted above, only one major city has a Republican mayor. The GOP has its work cut out for it in North Carolina for the next several years.