Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Charlotte area key to Republican success

Note: As we head toward 2008, PPP is writing a series of columns for newspapers across the state outlining what our polls have shown in their region in 2007. Today's focuses on Charlotte and its surrounding counties:

The region including Charlotte and its surrounding counties is set to be the strongest Republican area in North Carolina for the 2008 election, according to recent surveys conducted by Raleigh’s Public Policy Polling. The red tilt will be even stronger if Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory enters the race for Governor.

Public Policy Polling has conducted monthly polls in 2007 about the various statewide races we will have in North Carolina next year. One of the ways we analyze our results is by region, so as we enter 2008 it seems worth taking a look at the attitudes of voters in the Charlotte region about next year’s candidates.

Among Democratic primary voters, Hillary Clinton is the most popular candidate in the area. She has led three of the last four months and in the most recent poll had 43% compared to 23% for Barack Obama and 17% for John Edwards.

It doesn’t really matter who the Democratic nominee is though. It appears that this is one part of the state where Republicans are set for a strong performance in 2008. In nine potential general election matchups for President, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Rudy Giuliani lead Clinton, Edwards, and Obama in every one by pretty wide margins. Giuliani and Huckabee are particularly strong in the metro Charlotte region. Even factoring in all the undecideds they receive over 50% against any of the leading Democratic hopefuls.

The way the gubernatorial race breaks in the area will be strongly dependent on whether Pat McCrory decides to run or not. Bill Graham, a Salisbury trial lawyer, has been by far the strongest candidate on the Republican side in the region all year. In the most recent Republican primary poll he led state senator Fred Smith 22-10, even as Smith took the lead on a statewide basis. But the same poll showed that if McCrory entered the race he would lead Graham 44-15 in the greater Charlotte area. A McCrory candidacy could pretty much be a death knell for Graham because it would cost his so much support in his home region.

McCrory is even stronger in potential general election contests against Richard Moore or Bev Perdue than he is in the primary. The polling shows that he would lead Moore 62-16 and that his margin over Perdue would be 61-20. Although the other Republican candidates lead the two Democrats in the region as well they don’t come near cracking 50%.

In the Democratic race for Lieutenant Governor, Walter Dalton and Hampton Dellinger have been the strongest candidates in the area. Dalton is a senator representing a district including Cleveland County who has run campaigns in this media market before. Dellinger is from the Triangle but has been endorsed by Charlotte City Council member Susan Burgess.

Robert Pittenger, one of Mecklenburg County’s state senators, recently announced his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor. He has very strong support for that position in the region, leading his opponent Greg Dority 44-9 in the first poll. He should be grateful for the local support because he doesn’t exceed 10% in any other region of the state.

The election is a long way off but if the current polling trends hold true, the Charlotte region could be key to the efforts of Republicans to regain the Governor’s mansion and continue North Carolina’s thirty plus year tradition of choosing Republican candidates for President.

That’s because statewide it’s looking like a good year for Democrats. John Edwards appears to be the strongest general election candidate in North Carolina of either party for President and although Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would not be favored in the state it still appears either of them would do better than most Democratic candidates have in recent years.

This Democratic turn in the electorate makes the Republican stronghold in the Charlotte region even more important to their party’s success than it normally would be. You can bet a lot of GOP resources will go into getting as many of its voters to the polls in this area as possible.

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