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Storms of Campaign Season Come Early to N.C.
By Brent Laurenz
Published: June 7, 2012
RALEIGH - Labor Day used to be the unofficial kickoff to campaign season. Yet here we are, just barely past Memorial Day, and our airwaves are already being flooded with campaign ads. It’s a stark reminder that North Carolina has officially landed in the realm of swing states.
For the first election season in a long time, our state is on the radar of both parties and major candidates at the beginning of an election year, which helps explain the early onslaught of TV ads.
In 2008, John McCain thought he had the state in the bag and it wasn’t until the fall that he realized Barack Obama was doing well here and was going to make the state competitive. Of course, by that time it was too late for McCain.
Mitt Romney and his Republican allies are clearly not going to make the same mistake. And President Obama is poised to fight tooth and nail to win our 15 electoral votes again. In fact, a recent study revealed that three of the top 10 media markets in the country for concentration of political advertising are right here in North Carolina -- Greensboro-High Point, Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte.
That’s just the presidential contest. The race for governor is also off to a fast start, with attacks airing from outside interests on both sides, leading to lawsuit threats over claims in the advertisements. We even have a group towing an attack-ad banner by plane around the state. All this and it’s only June.
It appears very likely that, barring a scandal or major event, both the presidential and gubernatorial races in North Carolina will remain competitive this year.
Obama is fighting to recapture the coalition that propelled him to victory in 2008, even holding the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. It remains to be seen if he can reignite the spark among younger voters and turn out African-Americans and college-educated voters at the same rates as last time. If Obama can do that, plus convince weary moderates and independents he deserves another shot, he might be able to pull off a victory here once more.
Romney, on the other hand, needs only to win McCain’s voters and add another 8,000 or so ballots to his total and he can put North Carolina back in the Republican column, where it had been every presidential election since 1976 until Obama came along.
Democrats have fared better with the governor’s mansion, winning every race for the highest office in the state since 1992. However, that streak is in jeopardy as unpopular outgoing Gov. Bev Perdue leaves behind a tough race for her party’s nominee, Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, against Republican Pat McCrory. Voters barely had time to catch their breath after the May 8 primary when attacks started flowing both ways in this race.
In the era of modern campaigns, competitive elections not only mean voters have a real choice on the November ballot, but it also means a barrage of TV ads from candidates and a great deal of interest (and spending) from outside groups. We can expect both in droves this year in North Carolina. It’s only June and we’re already seeing that.
So if you don’t like political ads or negative campaigning on TV, you might want to find a few good books to read between now and November.