North Carolina voters, six months away from the presidential election Nov. 6, will be bombarded by campaigns touting the strengths of Democratic President Barack Obama and his likely Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, as the candidates vie for support in this every-vote-counts state.
5-14-2012. Last week's primaries offered a starting point — even if a shaky one, according to political experts — for predicting the candidates' possible vulnerabilities.
Romney and Obama each won his primary race handily May 8. But Romney lost a significant number of votes to Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, candidates who have withdrawn from the GOP primary race. Obama, running unopposed, didn't exactly trounce his sole opponent, the "no preference" alternative on the Democratic ballot.
In half of the state's 100 counties, when given a choice between Obama and "no preference," at least 30 percent of voters casting a Democratic ballot chose no preference, according to statistics from the N.C. State Board of Elections.
Statewide, about 20 percent of Democrats snubbed Obama.
By the end of the week, Republicans pounced, saying that 1 out of 5 voters casting Democratic ballots statewide chose "Anyone-But-Obama."
"To be straightforward, Tuesday's primary was a huge embarrassment for President Obama and a victory for Republicans," Rick Wiley, the Republican National Committee's political director, said Friday.
Using the primary results to predict the November presidential election is a "hazardous undertaking," said John Dinan, a political science professor at Wake Forest University.
"It's difficult to know what to take from the 20 percent of Democratic voters who didn't vote for Obama in the primary. They could be moderate Democrats who might be won over by Romney in the general election. But they could as easily be very liberal Democrats who are trying to signal their unhappiness that Obama hasn't gone further in confronting Republicans," he said.
"There's no way this second group would vote for Romney in the general election. Perhaps they could stay home in November. But chances are that this group would still be voting for Obama in the general election."
At least 40 percent of voters casting a Democratic ballot in 10 counties chose no preference over Obama. Those counties were Tyrell, Columbus, Rutherford, Alexander, Bladen, McDowell, Robeson, Greene, Richmond and Cleveland. The deepest loss — 46.6 percent — came in Tyrell County.
Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University, said Obama has little hope of winning these counties, no matter how hard he tries.
"After all, if 4 in 10 Democratic voters chose no one over him, it seems unlikely that he could win a more conservative general election electorate. He needs to concentrate heavily on voter mobilization in the counties where he's favored and on converting independent voters in the counties that promise to be closer," he said. B. Guiterrez.