Moderate Republicans are the endangered species of North Carolina politics, but they could hold a lot of power in next year's elections.
Less than 10% of voters in the state currently identify themselves as moderate Republicans. That trails conservative Republicans (27%), moderate Democrats (22%), liberal Democrats (13%), conservative Democrats (10%), and moderate independents (10%). The only voter groups smaller than moderate Republicans are liberal Republicans and liberal and conservative independents.
They have some views out of the mainstream of their party. For instance a majority support increasing income taxes on the rich in the state this year. A quarter of them approve of Barack Obama's job performance, compared to only 6% of conservative Republicans. More than 50% of them say that Jim Hunt, rather than Jim Martin, was their favorite Governor of the last 37 years. More of them list education as their top issue than moral and family values. And perhaps most telling only 36% of them say Richard Burr should be reelected while 41% believe it's time to give someone else a chance.
That's really not a big surprise- Burr, as well as Republican legislative leaders in the state, have played much more to the party's right leaning base than its voters in the middle. These folks might agree with something like banning gay marriage but it's not as high a priority for them as money in the classroom. They might be sympathetic to what Bev Perdue is pushing right now.
Simply put Burr and Republican legislative candidates can't assemble a winning coalition without these voters but risk losing their support to moderate Democratic candidates by pursuing a nearly uniformly conservative agenda. It will be interesting to see what steps are taken to try to keep these voters in the fold over the next year, or what Democrats might be able to do to convince them to cross over.