North Carolina is already facing the kind of national attention that has become the new norm in presidential campaigns, but next year’s mid-term election may bring a whole new set of focus on the state.
The National Journal casts the U.S. Senate race as one that could determine which party controls the chamber.
And the Associated Press describes incumbent U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan as facing “a powerful Republican rebound” in keeping a seat that had been held by the GOP from 1973 to 2009.
One of the key aspects critical to next year’s election is the readjustment in the electorate between presidential and mid-term elections.
One way to measure this “readjustment” is by voter turnout. Historically, North Carolina’s electorate has bounced from a record 70 percent of registered voters casting ballots in 2008 to 37 percent and 44 percent of registered voters casting ballots in 2006 and 2010, respectively.
In these mid-term election years, the electorate tends to favor the GOP. While the past two presidential elections have tossed back and forth between Democrats and Republicans at the top of the ticket, in mid-terms the Republicans appear to have the edge. But the edge isn’t as sharp as it once was.
In 2006, white registered voters made up 81 percent of the electorate, while black voters were only 15 percent and other racial voters were only 2 percent. Two years later, in the Obama massive grassroots organization of 2008, white voters were only 73 percent of the ballots cast, while blacks were 22 percent and other minority voters were 3 percent.
Thus a quarter of the electorate were non-white voters in a Democratic presidential year.
In 2010, the electorate turned back to a substantial white electorate, at 78 percent of voters casting ballots.
In the 2012 presidential election, however, white voters were only 71 percent of the electorate.
In combination with the racial composition of mid-term electorates, the GOP tends to have a greater presence in mid-term elections than their registration numbers would suggest: in both 2006 and 2010, 37 percent of the ballots were from registered Republicans.
In 2008 and 2012, only 33 percent of the ballots cast by registered voters came from the GOP.
So when Hagan faces her Tar Heel electorate next year, she will face a very different electorate from when she won in 2008. Along with the readjusted electorate, Hagan will face history as well.
It’s rare for the party in control of the White House to gain congressional seats; usually the 6th-year itch sets in with voters and they punish the president’s party.
Already there appears to be some dampening toward the president. A recent poll shows some slippage among Obama’s base, with young people showing a 17-point slide in their approval of the president’s job performance.
If next year’s electorate continues its historic readjustment and proves to be an “older” group of voters, this decline in youth support may be a harbinger of things to come for the president’s party.
And if the Democrats want to hold their U.S. Senate majority, one of the key seats that they will need to fight for is in North Carolina.
But based on historic demographics, Democrats will face an uphill battle come 2014.