For starters, here’s what the 2008 map of what the Perdue and McCrory race looked like:
I think that the map this year will see significant changes, especially in the eastern part of the state. If you look at the counties down east, they’re almost all “blue” for Perdue. Perdue’s performance down east was probably the major reason she beat Pat McCrory. Perdue dominated McCrory in the urban areas. Despite the fact that McCrory was arguably a better candidate, Perdue effectively made the case that McCrory would pretty much ignore those rural areas – and so the “Charlotte curse” struck again. Rural voters down east just weren’t comfortable with a big city mayor.
After four years of Perdue, that’s all changed. White voters in eastern North Carolina are abandoning the Democratic Party at pretty much every level, and McCrory is running an aggressive campaign to reach out to those voters. He knows that he can’t make the same mistakes he did four years ago. I think you’re going to see a lot more red in those areas this time around – especially in the region around New Bern, Perdue’s home ground, where she had a particular advantage.
Some have said that the reason McCrory lost was because he didn’t win Mecklenburg County. While that’s true to a certain extent, his failure in the eastern North Carolina were a much bigger factor in his loss.
Is there anywhere that Dalton can improve? Yes, there is – in the mountains where he’s from. It’s possible that he might even win Rutherford County, where he’s from. Other than that, Dalton really doesn’t have anywhere to go. His path to victory is the same as Perdue’s – sweep the eastern part of the state while keepign the urban counties blue. Given that Dalton is a westerner, that’s not going to be an easy task.
If Dalton can’t stop the bleeding in the east, then he’s going to have to rack up big margins in the urban counties – as in, do better than Perdue did. That’s certainly possible if he runs a strong campaign. Some of those independents who supported McCrory four years ago might be wary to support him after his rightward shift. But is Dalton running the kind of campaign to capitalize on that? At this point, no he isn’t.
Buncombe (Asheville) will go for Dalton, as will Guilford (Greensboro), Durham, and Cumberland (Fayetteville). McCrory will win in New Hanover (Wilmington). Forsyth (Winston-Salem) and Wake (Raleigh) are toss-ups.
Contrary to popular belief, I think McCrory will lose Mecklenburg. That might seem strange given that McCrory only lost it by a couple hundred votes back in 2008. Given that he’s doing so much better now, one would think that he would have the advantage there. But Mecklenburg has become hostile territory for Republicans. McCrory can make it closer and might even win it due to his ties with Charlotte, but anyone else should forget about winning Mecklenburg at a statewide level. The last Republican to win Mecklenburg at the state level was Elizabeth Dole back in 2002, who carried it by less than 3,000 votes. Since then, Mecklenburg has only gotten stronger for Democrats, and the Obama campaign is counting on a huge turnout in Mecklenburg to help them carry the state. These are straight-ticket voters who will not vote for McCrory. It’s also worth keeping in mind that Mecklenburg is a growing county and many of the voters who now reside there don’t remember his tenure.
That’s not to say that McCrory absolutely won’t win his home county. But he certainly doesn’t have to and shouldn’t have a hard time winning outright so long as he can break the Democratic strongholds in the eastern part of the state. Right now it looks like he’s going to do so.