New census numbers this week show that from July 1, 2007 to July 1, 2008 four North Carolina cities ranked in the top 25 nationally for population growth- Cary in third, Raleigh in eighth, Durham in 16th, and Charlotte in 23rd.
It is not an exaggeration to say this helped make the difference in Barack Obama's winning the state last year. We found at one point during the campaign that folks migrating to the state were supportive of Obama at a clip 13 points greater than life long North Carolinians. Beyond that the areas of this steep population growth- Wake, Durham, and Mecklenburg Counties- provided Obama with his three largest victories in the state last year in terms of raw votes. The new residents were a big contributor to that.
Once upon a time the conventional wisdom was that growth in the state benefited Republicans- that pendulum now seems to have turned more toward Democrats. Urban/suburban areas are going to gain legislative seats in the 2010 redistricting, and although those districts have the potential to be pretty competitive Democrats are likely to have a leg up.
Also, last year's Presidential results were a pretty clear indication of just how close this state is politically, and if next year's Senate race ends up being that tight Richard Burr's chances at reelection could come down to how well he does with voters who didn't even live here when he got elected in 2004.
Every time these growth stats come out and show North Carolina at the top of the list it's a nice reminder of what a desirable place this is to live- but the political implications are pretty meaningful too.