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Political Spotlight Shines Brightly On N.C.
By Brent Laurenz
Published: Aug. 27, 2012
RALEIGH - When it comes to national politics, Florida is a bit like the homecoming king or queen -- popular every year and used to getting all of the attention.
So with the Republican National Convention rolling into town, we can expect the Sunshine State to not wither in the spotlight or get overwhelmed by all of the attention. After all, with the 2000 election Florida has probably had more attention than most states would care to have when it comes to politics.
North Carolina, on the other hand, is a little more like the transfer student that quietly ended up becoming one of the more popular kids in school. For decades we were passed over when the presidential election came around with Republicans knowing our electoral votes were already in their column and Democrats not even trying, unless their nominee was a Southern governor from a bordering state (i.e., Jimmy Carter).
Now things have changed. And as a sign of the times, next week the Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte to officially renominate President Barack Obama, who carried North Carolina by a scant 14,000 votes in 2008 -- the first Democrat to win here since Carter in 1976.
The entire political world will be watching the events in Charlotte during that first week in September, but what exactly does it signify to have a major-party convention inside our borders? First and foremost, it marks our official entrance into the pantheon of battleground states.
Judging by North Carolina’s fast-growing population and rapid influx of voters from across the country, it looks like we better get used to our role as a swing state. A recent survey from Public Policy Polling shows that new residents to the state overwhelmingly favor Obama, but the natives and old-timers favor Romney.
Looking at the stats and reading those polls, it’s not hard to figure out that our electoral votes might be up for grabs for the foreseeable future. Which brings us back to the Democratic National Convention. Not only does it signal that North Carolina is a swing state this year, it also points to a strategy by the Democrats to break the Republican dominance in the South.
Charlotte was chosen over three other finalists -- Cleveland, Minneapolis and St. Louis -- that included two classic swing states and the most reliably Democratic state at the presidential level in recent history.
That a Southern city won out over three Midwestern towns points to the growing importance of not just North Carolina, but perhaps to the region as well. It may be a long time before South Carolina or Alabama ever end up in the swing state column. But North Carolina and Virginia seem poised to be there for a while and we all know Florida is a perennial battleground state.
So when the lights go up in Charlotte at the Time Warner Cable Arena, I’m confident North Carolina will rise to the occasion and prove to the political world that we’re not only an important battleground state, but a great state as well.
And who knows, maybe in 2016 Raleigh will have its turn at hosting the Republican National Convention to nominate Romney for a second term or former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan to take on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.