The NC trend is less Democrats, more reliable Democratic voters

Registration numbers have been a focus of late, especially in the battleground states.
I can’t speak for how the numbers work in other states, but I do know that if you think that lower numbers of Democrats in North Carolina mean less Democratic votes, you’d be wrong.
The quirky trend of the Old North State for the past two decades or so is that the people migrating here tend to be more reliable Democratic voters than the natives. There was a very good Public Policy Polling study of this in 2008 and what they found holds today. It’s also likely accelerating. The most recent PPP look at the presidential race has the president leading his challenger by a huge margin among the people who have been here ten years or less.

From this month’s Exile on Jones Street Column in the Indy, which came out this week:

Following the rout of 2010, GOP strategists maintained that Obama’s win in North Carolina was an anomaly driven by unusually high turnout. They pointed to a drop in Democratic registrations.

But as the PPP study points out, the people moving here, even independents, are proving to be more reliable Democratic voters than the natives. Born and bred Tar Heels came of age in what was historically a one-party state; if you wanted a say in legislative or county commissioner races, you registered as a Democrat so you could vote in the primary.

That same dynamic identified in 2008 is at play this year. The recent PPP poll on the presidential race notes that Obama and Romney are tied 47-47 for the native vote. The president’s lead can be attributed to an edge among non-native voters, including a 66-to-27-percent lead among those who’ve been here less than 10 years.

There’s a lot of things to note in the registration outlook and the demographic changes, but one that gets little mention is that all the recruiting the state is doing and the new jobs coming to the state – our rapid growth over the past 30 years – is starting to have a real impact on out politics.

Obama over Romney by 5 in NC

That’s the headline out of the new PPP poll.

Mitt Romney may have effectively wrapped up the GOP nomination with Rick Santorum’s withdrawal yesterday, but PPP’s newest North Carolina poll really shows how much Romney was hurt by the process with Barack Obama as the ultimate beneficiary.

President Obama now leads Romney by 5 points in North Carolina, 49-44. That’s the largest lead we’ve found for him in monthly polling dating back to November of 2010. Obama has a 51-38 advantage with independents and is particularly strong with women (54-39), African Americans (90-7), voters under 30 (61-33), and folks in the Triangle (60-33).

Odd little place we are

Used to be this state was a little more predictable.
The tide is turning, but it is an unpredictable tide with an anti-incumbency undercurrent that can be exploited by either side. As we saw in the local elections in the odd year cycle, a little bit of organization and the fervor of anti-incumbency can lead to big changes.
Wake’s example
The Wake County school board race is a prime example of how a little bit of money – OK, it was a lot by recent standards, but not that much to the parties involved – can go a long way in the current climate.
Wake is being seen as an example of a resurgent cultural conservative movement. That’s too simple. The movement in Wake County is certainly solid, but it is hardly a typical grassroots operation. It’s heavily organized and financially well supported. (The group that the elections ushered in is also having a hard time governing.)
The school board elections were all about getting a solid turnout among the cultural conservatives, anti-tax advocates and disaffected voters ready to vote out the incumbent. This is certainly a strategy that many will try to duplicate in the 2010 cycle, but not every incumbent is a target for every one of the groups.

Effect on Senate Race
The big question for Democrats in 2010 is whether the power of anti-incumbency will pay off in the race at the top of the ticket. One indication that there is a strong anti-incumbency current is recent polling by PPP that shows Burr at only about 55 percent in his own primary. No doubt like many in the GOP he’ll face some kind of energized challenge from the right.
It’s also worth noting that the seat that Burr holds traded hands often in the past few decades, so he’s battling not just the new wave of anti-incumbency, but one that is much older and manifests itself in North Carolina by rotating this particular senate seat.
Another indication that something is in the air is evidenced by the Democratic side. Elaine Marshall, the better knows of the candidates and probably the most progressive, is outpolling her closest opponent by a wide margin. That’s led to a interesting shift in the discussion on the Democratic side.
Until recently, Cal Cunningham has come across as a more centrist candidate. He has started to stake out progressive positions on financial reform.
We’re likely to see a far more populist race for the senate seat than one would have thought last year. Moving to the middle is increasingly seen as being a part of the inside game in Washington.