President Barack Obama was re-elected to a second term last night in race that see-sawed back and forth late into the night. This time four years ago, it was still unclear which way North Carolina had gone in the presidential race. Not so today. Republican Mitt Romney won the state by 96,000 votes – dealing a blow to local Democrats.
When then-Senator Barack Obama won North Carolina in 2008, he was the first Democrat to do it in more than 30 years. And his margin of victory was so slim - just 12,000 votes – that it was clear a repeat would be tough. So the Obama Campaign set up permanent residence in North Carolina and brought the Democratic National Convention here.
"By choosing Charlotte, we sent a strong message that President Obama and Democrats will not cede any ground in 2012," vowed Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz during the planning stages of the convention.
But the Republicans had learned a lesson, too, says long-time GOP strategist Jack Hawke.
"The Republicans used to have a 72-hour program which didn't go into effect until 72 hours before the election," explains Hawke. "At that point we had already lost four years ago. So they turned that around this time and did an earlier turnout and a better program and it worked very well."
It worked well enough to leave Democrats gathered at the Dilworth Grill last night in "booing" loudly when Mitt Romney was declared the apparent winner of North Carolina just after 11 p.m.
A few minutes later the group erupted in screams when President Obama was declared the national winner.
"It is a little bit of a mixture," admitted Mecklenburg County Democratic Party Chairwoman Aisha Dew.
She and thousands of Democrats across the state spent months knocking on doors and making phone calls only to have their efforts for Obama come up empty in North Carolina.
"But what I know is that we did our part, and that around the country, our colleagues did their part, and that President Obama will be President Obama for the next four years," said Dew.
And North Carolina Democrats think the Obama campaign's focus on the state forced Republican Mitt Romney to spend time and money here, too – potentially contributing to his loss in other key states.