Friday, December 28, 2007

Triangle remains a Democratic stronghold

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, the final one in the series, focuses on the Triangle:

The region including the Triangle and its surrounding counties will be pretty supportive of Democratic candidates next year, according to recent surveys conducted by Raleigh’s Public Policy Polling. Republican candidates are particularly likely to take a hit if native son John Edwards is at the head of the ticket.

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 Triangle and its surrounding counties about next year’s candidates.

On the Democratic side support has been split pretty evenly between Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards for President in the Triangle. Obama led the December poll in the region, while Edwards led in November, and Clinton led in October. The three candidates have been closely matched in all of the polls.

For the Republicans Fred Thompson was the front runner for most of 2007 but saw his performance drop off in conjunction with the rise in support of Mike Huckabee over the last month or so. Huckabee now leads the area 29-19 over Thompson, with Rudy Giuliani close behind at 17%.

When it comes to the general election though it doesn’t appear to matter who the Republican candidate is when it comes to garnering support in the Triangle. Edwards, Clinton, and Obama all lead potential match ups with the three Republican front runners (Mitt Romney in addition to Huckabee and Giuliani.) Edwards’ performance is especially strong in his home region as he leads all of the GOP contenders by over 20 points. His margin against Giuliani is 58-34, against Huckabee it’s 56-35, and he has a 56-33 advantage over Mitt Romney.

Barack Obama fares strongly as well, earning more than 50% support against all three Republican candidates even with the undecideds factored in. Hillary Clinton’s performance, while strong, is the weakest of the possible Democratic nominees. Her leads range from just two to five points.

In the gubernatorial primary, Bev Perdue appears to be the candidate of choice for Democrats in the Triangle. She has led Richard Moore by solid margins each of the last three months. For the Republicans, senator Fred Smith of Johnston County has taken a strong lead both within the region and statewide over the last few months after trial lawyer Bill Graham of Salisbury had led for most of the year.

The Democratic candidates have the edge in all eight potential match ups against the four possible Republican nominees for Governor (Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory and former supreme court judge Bob Orr in addition to Smith and Graham.) What sets the Triangle apart from the rest of the state though is that Richard Moore actually has larger leads against the GOP candidates in the region than Bev Perdue does. Although they both lead every possible match up Moore’s margins are larger. In the rest of the state Perdue does better than Moore.

We have also been polling in races further down the ballot, one of which is the race for the Democratic Treasurer nomination. Senator Janet Cowell of Wake County is seeking that office and has been basically tied statewide with David Young, a county commissioner from Buncombe County. In her home region though Cowell has performed very well, leading Young 20-12 and 21-12 in the Triangle for the last two polls. She’ll need a high percentage of the vote here to help her to victory in what is likely to be a pretty close race.

The election is a long way off but as Democrats try to win the presidency in North Carolina for the first time since 1976 it appears the Triangle will be one of the most helpful regions of the state for reaching that goal. If they can maintain their current level of support over the Republicans and do an effective job getting out the vote in this part of the state it could make for a historic election year.

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