By Marie Horrigan
Barack Obama heads into the North Carolina primary on Tuesday with a lead statewide, but recent problems for the campaign have allowed rival Hillary Rodham Clinton to make major inroads into an advantage that appeared solid weeks ago.
Polls in the last few days show Obama still in the lead but by significantly smaller margins – 9 points – than he enjoyed in April when his advantage was in the double digits.
Despite that lead, a district-by-district analysis of types of voters indicates Obama is likely to receive just a slight majority of the state’s 77 district-level delegates because of how the delegates are distributed.
According to CQ Politics, Obama is likely to receive 40 of the district-level delegates to Clinton’s 37.
North Carolina has 134 delegates including the 77 district-level delegates. Each of the state’s 13 districts is apportioned up to nine district-level delegates according to an intricate formula that takes into account each district’s vote for president and the vote for Democratic Gov. Michael F. Easley in the 2004 election.
Obama performed ably in the South Carolina primary on Jan. 26, beating both Clinton and John Edwards, the former senator for North Carolina who played heavily to his roots in the area. Twenty-one percent of voters in North Carolina are African-American, nearly double the national average, but still below the 29 percent in South Carolina. Obama was aided in South Carolina by the fact that Edwards and Clinton split the white vote.
Former presidential rival Edwards has been conspicuously absent from the fray. The Raleigh News & Observer noted April 30 that Edwards spent the week with his family at Walt Disney World in Florida. But top Edwards supporters have endorsed Obama, including former national campaign chairman Ed Turlington.
Obama does well among whites in higher income brackets, younger voters and black voters while Clinton performs well among women, blue-collar whites, white men and older voters. Fifty-four percent of white voters in North Carolina are women.
Here is CQ Politics’ analysis of the North Carolina’s district delegate breakdown:
1st District (Northeast – parts of Goldsboro, Rocky Mount and Greenville). Rep. G.K. Butterfield has thrown his support behind Obama in the rural and heavily Democratic 1st District. It is the poorest district in the state and is the only black majority district in North Carolina, a boost for Obama given his major lead among African-American voters. The district was apportioned six delegates, which means a candidate would need to win 58.3 percent of the vote to get four delegates – something that should not be a problem for Obama given the district’s demographics. CQ Politics Prediction: Obama 4, Clinton 2.
2nd District (Central – parts of Raleigh and Fayetteville). The 2nd District includes the suburbs of the state capital of Raleigh, which is one “point” of the state’s high-tech Research Triangle Park, giving it a significant population of well-educated upper-middle class voters. The district is also home to the Fort Bragg Army base (shared with the 7th and 8th districts), which also makes the military a top industry in the 2nd. The district’s demographics favor Obama, but not enough to push him over 58.3 percent of the vote, the amount needed to beat a tie. CQ Politics Prediction: Tie, 3-3.
3rd District (East – Jacksonville, part of Greenville, Outer Banks). The 3rd District is home to the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base. Democrats hold a registration advantage in the 3rd, but it trends conservative and voters generally support Republicans on the federal level. Voters in the 3rd District gave 68 percent of the vote to President Bush in 2004; his second highest take in the state. These trends leave 3rd District voters with four district-level delegates, the least in the state. Neither candidate appears to have the edge necessary to win 62.5 percent of the vote, the amount needed to win more than half the delegates. CQ Politics Prediction: Tie, 2-2.
4th District (Central – Durham, Chapel Hill, part of Raleigh). The 4th district is home to the rest of Research Triangle Park. It has the highest percentage of white-collar workers and of college-educated residents in the state, both key constituencies for Obama. One in five of the district’s voters hold a postgraduate or a professional degree, giving the 4th a politically progressive edge. The district’s congressman, David E. Price , has endorsed Obama and the district’s heavy Democratic lean gives it nine district-level delegates. Obama shouldn’t have any problem winning 61.1 percent of the vote, the threshold to win six of the district’s delegates. CQ Politics Prediction: Obama 6, Clinton 3.
5th District (Northwest – part of Winston-Salem). The 5th District is the most rural in North Carolina. The largest R.J. Reynolds Tobacco plant is in the district in the town of Tobaccoville but much of the focus on tobacco production has turned other directions. Some tobacco farmers have converted their property to vineyards and wineries, and the Wake Forest University’s medical center has made health care a top industry in the district. Democrats have five district delegates in the 5th which means whichever candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote gets three delegates. Only 7 percent of the population in the district is black, and the sizable rural white population gives the advantage to Clinton. CQ Politics Prediction: Clinton 3, Obama 2.
6th District (Central – parts of Greensboro and High Point). In 2004, President Bush had his strongest showing in North Carolina in the 6th District – 69 percent of district voters supported him. Tobacco, textiles and furniture manufacturing are the top industries in the 6th District, but the district also is home to six colleges and universities. Whichever candidate receives more than half the votes will win three of the five delegates; since Clinton has the lock on the rural white vote, she would likely be the stronger candidate in this race. CQ Politics Prediction: Clinton 3, Obama 2.
7th District (Southeast – Wilmington, part of Fayetteville). The 7th covers a portion of Fort Bragg along with the 2nd and 8th Districts. Nearly a quarter of the voters in the 7th are African-American and the district is split evenly between white-collar workers and blue-collar and service employees. Agriculture is the top industry in the district, more than half of which is rural. Neither Obama nor Clinton would appear to have a strong enough base in the district to win four of the six delegates with more than 58.3 percent of the vote. CQ Politics Prediction: Tie, 3-3.
8th District (South central – parts of Charlotte, Fayetteville, Concord and Kannapolis). Manufacturing remains a major issue in the 8th District, which stretches across southern North Carolina to run between the part of Charlotte in the east to part of Fayetteville, but military is the top industry. Whoever wins more than half the delegates will win the majority of the five delegates, and Clinton would appear to have the edge among the blue-collar manufacturing workers and the military contingent. CQ Politics Projection: Clinton 3, Obama 2.
9th District (South Central – parts of Charlotte and Gastonia). Residents of the 9th District have the highest median income in North Carolina ($55,059). The district centers around Charlotte, which is the largest metropolitan region in the state, and features finance, service and retail as its top industries. The population is largely white, but also affluent and well educated, making it a mixed bag for both candidates. With six delegates at play either Clinton or Obama would have to win more than 58.3 percent of the vote to gain the advantage, an outlook that appears unlikely. CQ Politics Prediction: Tie, 3-3.
10th District (West – Hickory). More than half the voters in the 10th District work in blue-collar or service industry jobs. The highly rural and agricultural district has the highest percentage of blue-collar workers and the lowest percentage of college graduates in North Carolina. Work in textile mills and furniture manufacturing has given way to technology manufacturing. The district trends conservative and President Bush won 67 percent of the vote in 2004. Given the district’s strong blue-collar population, Clinton is in a strong position to garner more than 50 percent of the vote, enough to win the majority of delegates, but it appears unlikely she would receive more than 70 percent of the vote, the blow-out results that would be necessary for her to win four of the five. CQ Politics Prediction: Clinton 3, Obama 2.
11th District (West – Asheville). The 11th District has the state’s highest percentage of two core Clinton constituencies: whites and older voters. Ninety percent of the voters are white and 18 percent are older than 64, the highest percentages for both in North Carolina, making the district an easy win for Clinton. It is not a stretch to imagine Clinton taking the 58.3 percent of the vote needed to win four of those delegates but it seems less likely she would win 75 percent of the delegates to get five – although if it is going to happen in any district, this would be the one. CQ Politics Prediction: Clinton 4, Obama 2.
12th District (Central – parts of Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Greensboro). The 12th District has the second-highest black population in North Carolina; 45 percent of the district’s residents are black and the district’s congressman, Rep. Melvin Watt , has endorsed Obama. The 12th is the smallest district in the state in terms of landmass, and winds diagonally across the state, from Greensboro and Winston-Salem in the north to Charlotte in the south. Kerry got his best response in the 12th, 63 percent of the vote. The district has seven delegates and Obama appears in a strong position to win 64.2 percent of the vote, the amount needed to garner five of the seven delegates. CQ Politics Prediction: Obama 5, Clinton 2.
13th District (North central – parts of Raleigh and Greensboro). The 13th District is anchored by two cities – Raleigh and Greensboro – that have two distinct cultures. Northern and central Raleigh is home to many of the city’s technology and government employees while tobacco processing was the key industry in Greensboro. Greensboro also has a larger black population than the district at large. The district has strong Democratic voter registration, but Democrats in the western reach of the 13th tend to be more conservative. Seven delegates are up for grabs in the 13th, which means a candidate needs to get more than 50 percent of the vote in the district to receive four delegates, but it would take 64.2 percent of the vote to get five delegates. Obama’s advantage among African-Americans and white-collar workers gives him the edge in this district. CQ Politics Prediction: Obama 4, Clinton 3.
In addition to the 77 district-level delegates, 26 at-large delegates will be allocated to Clinton and Obama according to what percentage of the vote they receive statewide in the primary.
North Carolina also has 19 superdelegates. Three of the state’s seven Democratic House members have made endorsements in the race – all for Obama. However, Clinton achieved a major coup when the state’s popular Democratic Gov. Michael F. Easley endorsed her April 29. Both of North Carolina’s senators are Republicans.
According to a superdelegate roster compiled by Democratic Convention Watch, three other superdelegates (party officials) have endorsed Obama, giving him six of the state’s 19 super delegates while Clinton has picked up an additional endorsement, giving her two so far. Eleven superdelegates still remain uncommitted.