With a week to go the race to be the next Mayor of Charlotte is all tied up. Anthony Foxx and John Lassiter are each at 45%.
The ultimate winner of this race is going to be determined by who can get their people out to the polls, and in particular what the breakdown of the electorate is by race and age.
There are major divisions along demographic lines in the candidates' support. Lassiter leads 63-29 among white voters, a gap even wider than in the Presidential race in North Carolina last year. Foxx has an 80-9 lead with African Americans.
Charlotte's population is 33% black and we project their share of the electorate at 32%. If excitement about the possibility of the city having its first black Mayor since the 80s results in African Americans turning out at a higher rate than whites Foxx will win. But black turnout has tended to lag in local elections and if that turns out to be the case Lassiter is the likely winner.
There are similarly large divisions along age lines. Lassiter leads 61-30 with senior citizens. Foxx is up 57-29 with voters under 30. We expect high turnout from old voters and low turnout from young voters but if the pattern is different than that give the advantage to Foxx.
While it is unclear who will win this race, one thing is certain: the contest is very unusual in the polarized world of 21st century American politics in that both candidates are quite popular. 59% of voters have a favorable opinion of Lassiter to only 19% negative. 52% have a positive opinion of Foxx to only 18% unfavorable. Most of the races we poll on right now voters are deciding based on who they hate less- this is a refreshing but rare one where they're picking who they like more.
Lassiter is hanging in there in this Democratic city because of a 51-31 lead with independents and because he's getting a bigger share of his party's vote (86%) than Foxx is getting of his (79%). We also find a likely electorate that is considerably more Republican leaning than the people who turned out last fall. While Barack Obama won the city by more than 30 points, the voters planning to come out this year supported the President by just a 52-44 margin.
That means McCain voters are planning to turn out right now at a considerably higher rate than Obama's, and it also means that Foxx probably has a lot more upside in the final week of the campaign. There are a lot more Democratic leaning voters sitting on their hands right now than Republicans and if the Foxx GOTV effort is successful in getting them out he should win. But it's not a given that Presidential only voters can be made interested in the Mayoral race, so this one's about as close as it could be.
Tomorrow we'll release City Council numbers, where there's a lot more clarity.
Full results here