Republicans over the past two days have jumped on a quote from former Bill Clinton strategist Paul Begala — who works for the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action, not the Obama campaign — stating that President Barack Obama has “given up” on winning North Carolina. But there is really no evidence to suggest that Obama is giving up on the state. And a new poll from left-leaning Public Policy Polling finds Obama and Romney tied, with the president still having some clear advantages in the state.
The first is a ground game that has led to an impressive early turnout that heavily favours the president. Among early voters in the PPP poll, Obama leads Romney by 15 points (57-42). Romney makes up the disadvantage in early voting by capturing the respondents who have yet to vote by a 50-45 margin.
Michael Bitzer, the political science chair at Catawba College, said that according to the state’s board of elections, 900,000 people have already cast early votes in person. Breaking these numbers down, he said that the turnout was 53 per cent Democratic to 28 per cent Republican (though some registered older Democrats in rural areas tend to vote Republican, so the numbers are probably slightly closer).
“The conventional wisdom says it’s leaning Romney, but some of the early voting numbers seem to indicate that Democrats are energized and showing up,” Blitzer said. “If early voting is any indicator, this is going to be a lot tighter than folks believe.”
The PPP poll also contains a surprising finding — Democrats in the state are a lot more excited than Republicans to vote. In the poll, 77 per cent of Democrats said they were “very excited” to vote, compared with just 65 per cent of Republicans.
Enthusiasm among African-Americans in the state — who support Obama by an 88-11 margin — sits at an astounding 83 per cent. The numbers could be the result of a boost from the convention.
“We’ve found it consistently close throughout the year,” said Jim Williams, an analyst at PPP, said of the state of the race. “And it remains close. There are no signs to my eyes that anybody is giving up — either Obama or Romney.”
Saying Obama has given up on North Carolina because he has not traveled to the state since the Democratic National Convention in September is akin to saying Romney has conceded New Hampshire and Wisconsin to Obama.
Just like Romney has employed surrogates to stump in Wisconsin and New Hampshire — most prominently, vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan in the Badger State — Obama has done likewise in North Carolina. Vice President Joe Biden campaigned in the state in early October, and First Lady Michelle Obama has also made visits.
“I do think there’s a bit of mythology that’s being spun-up on the other side about some of these states, and North Carolina is one of them,” Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said on a conference call this week.
“If anybody thinks any of North Carolina, Florida, Virginia – anybody who thinks those states are in the bag is half in the bag themselves. We have added millions of dollars to television spending in each of these states in the last couple of weeks and for the last couple of weeks. We are doubling down; we are not pulling back at all.”
Indeed, Obama is still active in buying airtime in the state. The campaign is running “Determination,” a one-minute spot that serves as the president’s closing pitch.
Jonathan Kappler, research director at the non-partisan NC FreeEnterprise Foundation, tweeted Thursday that on at least one station, the Obama campaign’s ad buys have jumped 145 per cent this week.
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