The 2012 election represented a first in modern North Carolina politics: the Democratic presidential candidate outperforming the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. In a state accustomed to wide defeats for Democrats at the presidential level and broad victories for Democrats at the gubernatorial level, 2012 represented a flip-flop: while President Obama only lost North Carolina by 2%, Democrat Walter Dalton lost the Governor’s race to Pat McCrory by 11.39%.
And now, here’s a map showing how much Obama outperformed Dalton in each county. The greenest counties represent the best Obama overperformance. In the red counties, Obama actually performed worse than Dalton.
Unsurprisingly, Dalton’s best county relative to Obama was Rutherford County, though both candidates failed to carry it. In the mountains, Dalton kept a number of traditional Democrats in line, no doubt because of his roots in the area.
In southeastern North Carolina, conservatives white Democrats stuck with Walter Dalton, but refused to back Obama, allowing Dalton to outperform the President in Scotland, Robeson, Bladen, and Columbus counties. Dalton failed to win any counties that President Obama lost, but Columbus County was the closest to earning that distinction. While Obama lost Columbus by nearly 8 percentage points, Dalton came within half a percentage point of carrying it.
Dalton also outpaced Obama in the northeastern “finger” counties, along with several other counties in that region. Again, this can be attributed to ticket-splitting conservative Democrats who were fine with Dalton but had a problem with Obama.
McCrory put up some very impressive numbers in the Charlotte region, allowing Obama to overperform Dalton in Mecklenburg County by over 20%. One can glean from the map that there was a significant number of Obama/McCrory voters in the I-85 crescent. These are the new swing voters of North Carolina, they are mostly moderates, and they reside in urban or suburban areas. They liked McCrory but Mitt Romney was a bridge too far for many of them. As Mitt Romney proved, one can still win North Carolina without winning these voters, but their growing numbers will make this more difficult in the future.
The challenge for the national GOP is to find their Pat McCrory – the candidate who can find broad appeal in the urban corridors of the country. Until then, expect Democratic dominance in the nation’s growing cities to continue.
The data in spreadsheet form is linked below. The last column represents the amount that Obama outperformed Dalton by in the county. A negative number means that Dalton did better than Obama.
John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.