There are ten counties in particular I'm going to be paying attention to as the numbers for President in North Carolina come in tonight: Chowan, Forsyth, Franklin, Haywood, Lenoir, Madison, Montgomery, Nash, New Hanover, and Sampson.
Why those? They're all ones that broke down almost exactly the same as the statewide vote for President in 2004 when Bush won by 12. So if these ones come in and Obama is winning them, even by a small amount, that's a pretty good omen for his overall prospects in the state.
They also represent the diversity of North Carolina. Although racking up huge gains in Wake and Mecklenburg Counties will certainly take Obama a long way he needs to improve on 2004 performance across the board to take the state, particularly in eastern North Carolina. Whether he's getting out enough new black voters and getting enough registered Democrats who often vote Republican for President in places like Chowan, Lenoir, Nash, and Sampson Counties to win is critical to his chances of winning North Carolina.
Places like Forsyth and New Hanover Counties have urban centers and rapidly expanding suburbia: Obama will have to increase turnout in the former and win over Bush voters in the latter to be successful.
And don't forget the Mountains: Obama is doing a lot better than recent Democratic nominees have done in the region, and if he can eke out a victory in places like Haywood and Madison Counties it's a good sign that he's cut his losses enough out there to make his wins in other parts of the state pay off.