The Party Line
11:15 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

Expect North Carolina To Remain A Battleground State

Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer

The 2012 Election: It’s a New North Carolina

Now that the dust has settled in the and we have all (hopefully) survived the general election, some thoughts on the aftermath of the 2012 election.

First, North Carolina is more like Virginia than South Carolina.

There’s the old saying about the Tar Heel State being “a vale of humility between two mountains of conceit.”  Four years ago, Nate Silver, the respected blogger at fivethirtyeight.com, found that both Carolinas shared the closest similarity of any two states in the nation. 

But that was before a significant ground game by the Obama campaign and shifting demographics radically changed North Carolina’s political landscape.  To go from a +13 Republican advantage in 2000 and 2004 to the narrowest of advantages for one party over the other (in 2008, it was 0.3% in the Democratic favor; this year, it appears to be slightly over 2% in the Republican favor), North Carolina’s status as a “battleground” state appears to be cementing itself as a new version of the state.

In comparison, Virginia has also entered itself into the pantheon of electoral battlegrounds, with Obama winning the Commonwealth to the north by just a 3 percent difference, while our sister state to the south held true to double-digits for one candidate over the other this year. 

Another “new” facet of the state is seen in the GOP domination of all three branches of state government. 

We did see this once before in recent times, if you consider within the past 100 years “recent.”  During the era of Fusion politics within the state, Republicans joined together with Populists to gain control over the three branches of government, much to the dismay of white Democrats. 

By joining forces, Republicans and Populists controlled the governorship, the legislature, and four members of the five-member state Supreme Court from 1895-1901. 

Now, with Governor-elect McCrory, the addition of Republican seats in the General Assembly, and control of the state Supreme Court, the Grand Old Party has the opportunity to reshape the state within its views.

But that opportunity also presents itself with a distinct challenge: Which “Republican view” will be the approach taken?  Republicanism comes in several forms, most notably in two distinct forms: a pragmatic business-minded approach, notably identified with leaders like McCrory and Speaker of the House Thom Tillis versus the form more closely aligned with the Tea Party insurgency of 2010 that enabled folks like state Senate leader Phil Berger, House Majority Leader Paul Stam, state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby, and gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory to win this November.

Yes, you read correctly: Pat McCrory seems to be in both Republican factions. The question going forward is, which McCrory will we see? The moderate former mayor or the realist who joined the forces of the Tea Party Revolution?

As the numbers become clearer over the next few days, I’ll be posting some more observations on what appears to be a new North Carolina and what the future might hold for campaigns and elections in the state.