Want to know what trends to look at, and where, on Election Night? Hopefully this guide will help. Here are the crucial counties in NC:

Wake
A 55% Obama county, Wake is the KEY area to watch on Tuesday. Definitely for North Carolina. Possibly for the nation. It’s full of that crucial educated swing bloc that Trump has shown vulnerability with in the past. If Clinton can double Obama’s 2012 margin here, a victory statewide for Trump gets very difficult. There are also five Republican-held NC House seats at stake here. All of them are competitive to some degree.

Mecklenburg
Obama netted 100,000+ votes out of Mecklenburg County in both 2008 and 2012. Hillary will need to get roughly similar numbers here if she hopes to win statewide. A drop-off in black voters could be offset by big gains with college educated whites in the suburbs. Governor McCrory won Mecklenburg County four years ago; he’s certainly going to lose it this year – the question is just by how much. Like in Wake, there are many competitive legislative seats at stake here.

Durham
A 76% Obama county, Durham is the perfect Obama coalition county and will be important to watch to see if it holds up this year. It has a large number of educated voters, blacks, and young people. Watch to see if Clinton can exceed 80% here. (A significant decline in the African American composition of the vote will make that difficult.)

New Hanover
New Hanover (Wilmington) is almost a microcosm of the state as a whole. The only difference is the black population is smaller, percentage-wise, than the state at large. A Clinton win here probably means the state will go blue for her. There’s also a highly competitive (and expensive) NC Senate race being waged here.

Watauga
Watauga is an interesting mix of students, college educated voters, and working-class whites. Democrats are doing well in the early vote here. If Clinton wins, then Trump’s “educated voter problem” probably extends throughout the state. It’s a key bellwether county, going with the statewide winner in every presidential election since 1996 and every U.S. Senate race going back to 1998.

Of course, every election cycle is different and I expect a greater degree of geographic polarization between urban and rural than ever before. So don’t take any of the results from these counties to be dispositive. There are almost certainly many surprises ahead.

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