Saturday, January 13, 2007

Breaking down the 2008 North Carolina election

As printed in the Chapel Hill Herald on January 13th, 2007:

It’s hard to believe, but we’re now less than 16 months out from the next key election in North Carolina, the 2008 primary that will decide nominees for governor, Senate, and our share of the delegates in the presidential race. It’s never too early to start breaking down the political landscape.

Raleigh’s Public Policy Polling, which seemed to have the most accurate numbers of any firm in the state for the 2006 election cycle, released a comprehensive poll of the presidential and gubernatorial races this week.

On the Democratic side for governor, Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue has a 12-point lead over Treasurer Richard Moore. This is basically in line with what most polling has shown over the last year.

Orange County Rep. Bill Faison, who may or may not be a candidate for the job, pulls 7 percent in the polls with about 40 percent of folks not surprisingly still undecided.

One interesting aspect of this race is that there are significant regional disparities in the results of the poll. For instance, Moore leads Perdue in the Charlotte area. He has been perceived as a strong leader on financial issues and his edge there could reflect the banking-oriented economy in that region.

In the Triangle though, Perdue has a 32-point lead on Moore, carrying a significant 49 percent of the vote.

I’m not surprised by this. When I was the statewide College Democrats President, I saw Perdue four or five times for every time I saw Moore. Perdue is omnipresent at various functions across the state, but particularly in the Triangle.

The Triangle also interestingly had by few the smallest number of undecided respondents, likely reflected by the heightened political awareness of those living near the epicenter of state politics.

There’s less to analyze on the Republican side of the gubernatorial race.

Conservative activist Bill Graham leads with 24 percent of the vote. Former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, and state Sens. Robert Pittenger and Fred Smith trail with 13, 10, and 9 percent of the vote respectively.

Graham’s lead is almost certainly attributable to his self-funded ad campaigns on radio and television across the state about the gas tax and immigration. Right now he’s the only candidate with a really strong statewide profile, but I imagine the field will tighten once the other contenders begin to up their name recognition.

I’m still waiting for someone else to enter the race on the Republican side, because I don’t think there’s a shred of a chance any of these guys could win. Of course, it’s fine with me if the NCGOP just throws in the towel!

In the Democratic Presidential race, I’m surprised that John Edwards has only 29 percent of the vote at this point, although he does have a significant leads on Hillary Clinton with 16 percent and Barack Obama with 15 percent.

Edwards’ support is well distributed. For instance he leads Clinton among women and leads Obama among black voters. He also has the advantage in every region of the state.

My guess is that a lot of people are flirting with Obama and Clinton but will come home to Edwards. I would also expect that most undecided voters will end up choosing him as well.

The Republican results for President are more interesting. Rudy Giuliani leads the state with 30 percent of the vote, barely edging out Newt Gingrich’s 29. John McCain is further back with 22 percent and Mitt Romney only has 6 percent.

Gingrich’s strength in North Carolina is stronger than anywhere else in the country I’ve seen. His outpacing McCain would seem to indicate that he is the candidate of choice for North Carolina conservatives.

I found it ironic that Gingrich had by far the most support among voters who listed their top issue as moral or family values, considering his history of marital infidelity. I guess his support comes from the ‘do as I say and not as I do’ wing of the Republican Party.

McCain’s strongest regional support came in the 910 area code, which contains much of North Carolina’s military infrastructure. Although I would never support McCain, I am happy to see that voters in that area appear to appreciate his undeniable service to our country.

I was surprised to see Giuliani in the lead since Republican voters in the state are pretty conservative and he tends to be a moderate. I have a feeling that his support comes from voters who like him because of a perception that he is a strong leader. When Public Policy Polling does future polls on this race, I’d like to see ‘leadership’ be one of the issues they poll on.

It is still a long ways off and there will doubtless be a lot of shifting in these races. Still, this effort from Public Policy Polling gives us a good starting point in seeing what is to come in the 2008 election in our state.



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