Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Are the urban votes enough?

Last month Pat McCrory told the Charlotte Observer, "That's one area that's making me evaluate the office. The continued lack of respect for Charlotte and other metropolitan areas."

Beyond that, McCrory hasn't articulated much of a vision for why he wants to run for governor of North Carolina.

This focus on urban areas led WBT host Tara Servatius to ask me Friday afternoon if I thought there were enough Republican primary voters in the urban areas of North Carolina that the numbers would stack up well for McCrory even if he does poorly in rural North Carolina, where ostensibly his reputation as a moderate focused on the issues of cities would not help him to gain many votes.

I said I didn't think so but I would do some research. After doing the research my answer is still no.

Around 363,000 people voted in the 2004 Republican primary for governor. Of those, less than a third, about 111,000 came from North Carolina's five most urban counties. There were around 37,000 voters from Wake County, 24,000 from Mecklenburg, 23,000 from Forsyth, 21,000 from Guilford, and 6,000 from Durham.

Expanding the definition of an urban area I looked up how many Republican primary votes were cast in each county that contains a city with a population over 60,000. That added Cumberland (6,000 GOP primary votes), New Hanover (10,000), Buncombe (6,000), Pitt (3,000), Gaston (6,000), Onslow (5,000), and Cabarrus (6,000). Of course places like Fayetteville, Wilmington, Asheville, Greenville, and Jacksonville don't necessarily identify all that much with the problems a city like Charlotte faces.

Add them all up and it's another 42 thousand GOP primary votes in quasi-metropolitan areas. Even with the expanded definition you have 153,000 out of 363,000 primary votes in urban areas. Clearly there a ton of Republican primary votes to be had in small towns and rural areas across the state.

Bottom line? The primary's barely four months away, McCrory still isn't in the race, and the demography of the Republican electorate doesn't necessarily bode well for someone being driven to run by the problems of our cities. He pretty clearly would be the strongest general election candidate for the Republicans but unless he gets into the race and starts broadening his message soon, there's a pretty good chance his campaign would end with the primary.

I'm sure that would be viewed as good news by the camps of Bev Perdue and Richard Moore.

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