Rockingham County is located in the Piedmont section of North Carolina, along the Virginia border. The county’s population as of 2010 was 93,643. The county seat is Wentworth, but the largest city is Reidsville. The nearest major city is Greensboro.
In the past Rockingham boasted a strong Democratic Party, but the power of the local party has diminished with the liberalization of the national Democrats and the resulting switching of political preferences of white, rural voters. As evidence for this, Republicans now control the County Commission.
Rockingham has a high black population (18.85% in 2010) which gives Democrats a solid base of support, but they often fall short of winning. Kay Hagan managed to win the county in her 2008 Senate bid, but this is probably due to its proximity to Greensboro, Hagan’s base. Hagan’s narrow win can also be attributed to the ‘Godless’ backlash, and a repeat victory in the county is unlikely.
1988: R+5 (Leans Republican)
1992: R+3 (Toss-Up)
1996: R+15 (Solid Republican)
2000: R+17 (Solid Republican)
2004: R+19 (Solid Republican)
2008: R+23 (Solid Republican)
2012: R+25 (Solid Republican)
Forecast: Democratic support in Rockingham relied on the nomination of more centrist candidates. Dukakis lost here in 1988, but Bill Clinton won in 1992. Rockingham voters came to regret electing Clinton, and his policies were despised in the area. The county trended heavily Republican in 1996 and has trended Republican in each election since.
The growth rate during the 2000s was a weak 1.87%. The job market is weak and many young people are relocating for greener pastures. Stability is the name of the game here; there is no major demographic change here. Thus, Rockingham can be expected to continue to vote Republican, though Hillary Clinton would be a much stronger candidate for this county’s voters than Barack Obama.
As far as North Carolina politics goes, the county’s most prominent resident is Phil Berger, current Senate majority leader and a possible candidate for U.S. Senate in 2014. His son, Phil Berger Jr., is District Attorney for the county and a likely candidate for Congress should Rep. Howard Coble retire.