Now that it’s North Carolina’s turn in the political spotlight, the national press is swooping in to cover Obama and Clinton appearances in the state as well as the latest flap about a state GOP ad tying the two Democratic candidates for governor to Jeremiah Wright via their endorsements of Obama.
I’m planning to give NRO readers a lot more about the NC primary next week. But in the meantime, here are a few things to keep in mind — or to cast out of your mind, as the case may be — in interpreting what’s going on in the Tar Heel State.
• It is unlikely that Obama is up 15 points on Clinton here, despite what national poll averages suggest right now. My read of the latest surveys agrees with that of several veteran NC political hands I’ve talked to in the past couple of days. There’s been an overreaction to the Obama phenomenon in weighting the samples. Those with the largest Obama leads have black-voter shares approaching 40 percent. I don’t buy it. The share will probably be closer to 25 percent/30 percent. Also, I suspect that, as was the case in Pennsylvania, recent events may have created a modest “Bradley effect” that understates Clinton’s support among white voters.
Obama is surely leading in North Carolina, but Clinton has a reasonable chance of pushing her total by May 6 into the mid 40s or higher. That’s important in maintaining her chance of surpassing Obama in the nationwide popular vote by the end of the process.
• North Carolina has been a reliable red state in presidential races, but contrary to the experience of other Southern states, its Democratic Party has remained competitive in congressional races and dominant at the state level. When the state GOP says it’s running the now-famous “God [bleep] America” ad to target the North Carolina governor’s race, not simply to influence the Obama-Clinton primary, one ought to consider the very real possibility that this is true. Republicans are running uphill in the governor’s race this year, as usual. They haven’t elected a GOP governor in 20 years. They’re looking for some angles here.
• North Carolina is not South Carolina. Its political history and behavior are very different. It has a smaller black vote, true urban liberals, and, dare I say it, more talented Democratic politicians. Beware of facile comparisons. Virginia is a somewhat-better analogue, but not by much.