Wednesday, May 25, 2011

North Carolina looking good for Obama

It continues to look like North Carolina will move up the list of swing states in 2012. The state was hotly contested in 2008 but ultimately not very important to the outcome of the Presidential contest- winning it was icing on top of a cake that Barack Obama was going to be eating either way. We've been finding over the course of our polling this year though that Obama is holding up better in North Carolina than he is in more traditional swing states that he won by wider margins in 2008, places like Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio. It's looking conceivable that he could actually perform better in North Carolina than in those places and that increases the likelihood that the state could be a key part of Obama's path to 270 electoral votes and not just the difference between winning 350 and winning 365.

PPP's first poll in the state since the death of Osama bin Laden finds 50% of North Carolinians approving of Obama to 46% who disapprove. This is the first time we've found Obama hitting the 50% approval mark there since June of 2009. It's a given that Obama has maintained strong support from African Americans so the key to his high water mark is that his 37% approval with white voters matches the 37% of their votes we found him winning on our last poll in 2008.

Most states throughout the country Obama has seen serious slippage with white voters but here and also in Virginia where we polled a couple weeks ago and where the President has looked consistently strong he's holding onto the white support he got last time around. That could mean Virginia and North Carolina become the new Florida and Ohio as the states Obama needs to put him over the finish line.

If there's an individual state where the decision of Mike Huckabee not to run next year hurts Republicans the most it might be North Carolina. PPP has now polled general election match ups for the Presidential race in the state 7 months in a row. Huckabee is the only Republican who has ever led Obama in one of those match ups, and he polled the best of the GOP folks in a head to head with the President 6 out of those 7 months. On this most recent poll, conducted the weekend Huckabee announced he wasn't running, he trailed Obama by just a single point at 47-46.

All of the other Republicans did worse with Mitt Romney down 46-43, Newt Gingrich at a 50-42 deficit, Sarah Palin trailing 52-40, and the since departed Donald Trump with the biggest gap at 52-35. Huckabee has generally polled 2-3 points better than Romney in North Carolina. Usually you would say that difference is pretty negligible but in a state that Obama won by less than 1% in 2008 it really could mean the difference between winning and losing.

North Carolinians were split evenly in their feelings about Huckabee with 40% rating him favorably and 40% negatively. The remaining Republicans in the field are unpopular in the state. Romney's favorability is 30/43, Gingrich's 28/54, and Palin's 32/59. Their lack of appeal would give Obama a chance to win the state again even if his own numbers were middling. The fact that he is decently popular on top of their unpopularity makes him the favorite, albeit nominally, to win the state again next year. Gingrich and Palin are probably beyond rehabilitation so if the GOP wants to win the state next year either Romney's going to have to improve his image or a currently lesser known candidate's going to have to rise up from the back of the pack. There's no doubt North Carolina's going to be on the board again in 2012.

Full results here


Anonymous said...

I remember arguing with someone when The Emerging Democratic Majority came out over whether a state like North Carolina would undergo the change it currently is experiencing. This person said it was unlikely that the state would go towards the Democrats, given the sheer number of votes that would be required, but I said it was definitely possible. It's very, very nice to be right.

Anyway, I continue to think that if he's going to win North Carolina and Virginia, he'll almost certainly win Pennsylvania. I don't mean for this to sound too nasty or critical, but the last poll from Pennsylvania had some odd results, like Romney getting 20 percent of the black vote against Obama. It's not impossible for a Republican to do relatively well with these voters in the state, as Bush showed in 2004, but that was after careful outreach. And of course, Kerry wasn't black, while Obama is. I would think that if Obama were to lose Pennsylvania while winning North Carolina, it'd have to be for very special reasons.

Anonymous said...

Things look good for Obama but it's still early for the GOP. At this point in 2004 Joe Lieberman led the pack.

Anonymous said...

How can you say it is looking good when you only polled him against two people currently running? CNN's May 5 poll said Ron Paul polled stronger than any other GOP potential, including Huckabee, but you haven't put him into your head to head presidential polls since he declared his candidacy.


I Am Iron Man said...

Anony - it's probably because Ron Paul has no real chance of winning the Republican nomination. Libertarian leaning Republicans make up a pretty small portion of the people who vote in GOP primaries.

ESDudley said...

And even if Ron Paul by some miracle wins the Republican nomination, the national election is more then lost. There are only a few candidates that will lose the general election faster then Ron Paul.

The Interesting Times said...

Obama's good performance in North Carolina seems to be mostly an Obama thing, not a general Democratic Party thing. When Obama is no longer on the ballot (i.e., starting in 2016), North Carolina isn't likely to stay a blue state.

Josh said...

Per a recemt CNN poll, Ron Paul matches up best against Obama because he can pull over a large number of independents and progressives who wanted to see an end to our foreign interventions back in 2009 with Obama.


Dustin Ingalls said...

"When Obama is no longer on the ballot (i.e., starting in 2016), North Carolina isn't likely to stay a blue state."

It's not even a blue state now, but the competitiveness of the state is here to stay. Obama certainly has a lot to do with it, but the trends in the state due to population growth from other parts of the country have been lurking under the radar even before 2008. 2010 aside, Democrats (and I mean national liberal-moderate Dems, not just the Southern Dems who have always dominated state politics) have been making gains in the state for 20 years. The Dems controlled the state legislature almost exclusively for over 100 years, and NC has had a Democratic governor since 1993, an almost exclusively Democratic Council of State, and still an 8-7 advantage in the congressional delegation even after Etheridge's unlikely defeat of his own making.

NRH said...

The shift in North Carolina is no more restricted to Obama than the conversion of Colorado and Virginia from red-state status to swing-state status. In all three states, demographics have shifted, with Democratic-leaning urban areas having finally grown enough to counterbalance rural parts of the state. Younger voters in all three states are far more ethnically diverse than the preceding generation and are an increasingly large portion of the electorate with each passing cycle, which is bad news for the whites-only Republicans. Obama helped exaggerate the effect by drawing in a higher-than-usual percentage of minority voters to the polls, getting black voters to show up in proportion to their numbers for the first time ever in some states, but that's only good for a couple of points at best. The structural shift is demographic, not personality-driven.

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