Salena Zito: North Carolina closer than in '08
Tom Olson is good at what he does, serving the Sunday brunch crowd at Harper's Restaurant in the Queen City's upscale South Park neighborhood. He cheerfully hovers over a large family asking for menu recommendations.
Olson hesitantly talks politics until he is asked about President Obama.
“I voted for him in 2008,” he admits, but now is “very unhappy with him.”
Obama's first term soured him on all politicians. “I find him very dishonest. Very dishonest.”
North Carolina went for the Democrat in the 2008 presidential election, the first time since 1976, for a number of reasons: First, the national climate was favorable to Democrats; second, Obama consolidated the black vote even more than other Democrats; third, he won massively among those ages 18 to 29, while losing every other age demographic.
Patrick Kanetaka, 44, of Raleigh, N.C., liked Obama “a lot” in 2008. He was tired of the Bush years and thought Republican candidate John McCain would just be more of the same.
“It's fair to say, today I have buyer's remorse,” he says.
Kanetaka is voting for Republican Mitt Romney this time. As for Obama, he says, “It's the overreach, the spending, the lack of leadership or connection on the economy.”
In 2008, Obama narrowly lost the 30-44 age group that Olson and Kanetaka fall into, according to Geoffrey Skelley, a University of Virginia political analyst. “And he lost both the 45-64 and 65-plus age groups to McCain,” Skelley says.
By running up his margins among minorities and young people while losing older white voters, Obama edged McCain by about 14,000 votes in North Carolina, says Skelley. “This all helped Beverly Perdue down-ticket win the governor's office.”
Not very popular and with little chance of winning, Perdue is not running for re-election this year. Recent polling showed her disapproval rating at 59 percent, her approval at just 30 percent, Skelley says.
“Today, the Republican challenger, Pat McCrory, is leading Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton by a fair amount, which is why the seat is seen as likely Republican,” he says of North Carolina's gubernatorial race.
The economy has to be the main thing working against Obama here, as it is all over the country, he adds.
“That was it for me,” says Victor Reavis, a Charlotte Democrat who voted for Obama in 2008 and has had four jobs in four years. “Small businesses don't convert contract employees into full-time employees in this economy,” he explains.
The father of two small children says being “a one-income family” makes health care a challenge. He moved away from Obama over the president's handling of the economy, the way the health-care bill was pushed without Republican input, and federal spending.
“All of it, all of it, is just way off from what he promised. There was no working together,” he says.
North Carolina provided Obama's narrowest state victory in 2008. If the 2012 contest is even closer, as everyone anticipates, an improvement in Republican performance would be seen most immediately in North Carolina, according to Skelley.
“I think Romney mainly has the economy going for him (here), as is the case nationally,” says Skelley. “That's the issue he's got to win on, as it's Obama's biggest problem.”
While some social issues may favor Romney, a recent Charlotte Observer poll found the Republican candidate up 3 percentage points over Obama on the question, “Which candidate shares your values?” So it's a pretty close race.
What could work for Obama in North Carolina, however, is demographics: Blacks will support him, though the gay-marriage issue is impacting his support among black evangelicals; the same is true for a great majority of Hispanics in this state.
Reavis, an information-technology project manager, drives more than 120 miles a day to and from work; gas prices, like the rising costs of everything else, are hitting his family budget hard.
“The country is now more divided than it ever was,” he says. “And where are the jobs, the stability?”
Salena Zito covers politics for Trib Total Media (412-320-7879 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.