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The Daily Tar Heel

With presidential polls even, North Carolina plays a key role nationally

A New York Times Upshot and Siena College poll released Monday morning had presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in a dead heat in the state, with each candidate tied at 44 percent.

Without North Carolina, Donald Trump has a very difficult path to the White House, said Francis De Luca, president of the conservative-leaning Civitas Institute.

“Trump needs North Carolina to get to 270 electoral votes,” said Ferrel Guillory, professor at the UNC School of Media and Journalism. “If Clinton can deprive him of those votes, she’s on her way to victory.”

Guillory said the state reached battle ground designation only after 2008 when then-Sen. Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1976 to win the state’s electoral votes.

“As recently as 2004, there were no commercials in this state,” he said. “Republicans won this state easily. North Carolina as a swing state in presidential elections is a rather recent phenomenon.”

Guillory said the swing-state designation is in part due to changing demographics. Growing metropolitan areas like Raleigh and Charlotte have seen a surge of migration from other states, often creating areas of Democratic strength, he said.

“The electorate in North Carolina is half native North Carolinians and half people from elsewhere who have brought their political views in here,” Guillory said. A presidential candidate or running mate has visited the state every week since the Republican and Democratic conventions this summer.

“If Donald Trump wins comfortably, I think you’ll see people saying, ‘Well, North Carolina has returned to its past voting pattern,’” De Luca said. “If it goes the other way, people will say the state is still transitioning, because in the last three cycles, it would have flip-flopped twice.”

Guillory said North Carolina’s political leanings after the election will depend in part on how the Republican party recovers from this cycle. He said the party is likely to be fractured after the election.

“(North Carolina) is one of the 10 largest states in population now,” he said. “It’s going to remain central to the American political dynamic.”

Dave Miranda, spokesperson for the North Carolina Democratic Party, said North Carolina is getting national attention for its other two close races this cycle.

“Part of the reason that (voting efforts) are so big is because we know how important the state is to the election,” Miranda said. “And we have our own important races here trying to take back the Senate by ousting Richard Burr, trying to put our state back on track by electing Roy Cooper.”

The Quinnipiac University Poll released on Nov. 7 has Sen. Burr and Democratic senatorial candidate Deborah Ross deadlocked at 47 percent. The same poll shows Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper leading Gov. Pat McCrory 50 percent to 47 percent.

De Luca said North Carolina’s voting patterns were no longer stable, both on the state and national level.

“We’re kind of in a state of transition, and there’s no telling where we’ll end up,” De Luca said.


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