Now that the RNC has stopped verbally abusing empty chairs in Tampa, and the DNC carnival has finally left Charlotte, we are officially in election season. I know that if politics is your thing, it’s been election season since roughly the day after the last election, but for most “normal” folks (and if you’re reading this, you probably don’t fall into that category) this is the time they start to pay attention to the presidential race in earnest.
And it’s about time.
North Carolina has about 6.4 million registered voters, with a healthy 1.6 million of them registered as “unaffiliated”. Of that block, only a small percentage, 9% according the latest polling results, are still undecided as to which Presidential candidate they will choose, as amazing as that may seem. With the rest of the electorate in a statistical dead heat, this means that, at least in theory, the entire Presidential election in North Carolina will be decided by 150,000 individual voters out of more than 6 million.
I was one of those 60,000+ credential holders who lost their seat to Thursday’s convention when the event was moved indoors, so I jumped on the conference call that the President held for us as a very distant consolation prize. It was pretty much what one would expect from a call of this variety, but I was surprised when he said, “You guys are just blowing it up when it comes to registering voters.”
Really? I wasn’t aware of that.
Voter registration is, of course, a vital part of the President’s election strategy in North Carolina. As you may remember, he only carried the state by 14,000 votes in 2008, and voter turn-out this year is expected to be below ’08 levels, so getting more folks registered and to the polls will be crucial.
I called around to some friends who are working with the Obama campaign and no one was able (or willing) to talk about specific voter registration numbers. We do know that since June, more than 95,000 people registered to vote in North Carolina, with only 22,000 of them affiliating as Democrats. This might seem rather meek since Republican registrations were at 20,000, but the largest category was – you guessed it – “unaffiliated” voters, with the balance of roughly 52,000. Of course, we don’t know how many of these can be attributed to which campaign efforts, but that is an impressive number so far, it’s fair to say both sides will continue to use voter registration as a tactic to increase their edge in November.
Of course, these numbers and their breakout mean completely different things for down-ballot races, so I’m not suggesting anything more than to say that the Presidential race in North Carolina may be decided by slightly more people than attend the North Carolina State Fair every year. While that may be a lot of fried Oreos, it isn’t very much in terms of a state-wide election. And just remember, these are folks who just can’t make a decision one way or another. Still.
I know I said normal people just start paying attention to politics now, but really? Not sure? Well, it’s only a month until the fair comes town. Maybe we can do some exit polling there. In the meantime… pass me another giant turkey leg, please.