Ex-Raleigh Mayor Agrees: Obama By a Hair
Raleigh, N.C.–With about two hours to go before the polls close in North Carolina, a former three-term mayor of Raleigh predicted to me tonight Barack Obama would win, but by an unimpressive margin.
In predicting that the Illinois senator would beat Hillary Clinton by 53% to 47%, Tom Fetzer–mayor of Raleigh from 1993-99 and himself a past campaign operative–echoed the prediction of another Raleigh political consultant, Marc Rotterman.
"Obama had a 25-percentage point lead statewide three weeks ago," Fetzer told me, "And then after Rev. Wright resurfaced, there has been a rapid descent of white voters." Fetzer added that the recent furor over Obama not placing his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance has probably fueled other discontent about his candidacy among white Democrats.
The analysis of Fetzer, a past staffer for former Sen. Jesse Helms (R.-NC) and the Helms political organization known as the National Congressional Club, appears to be shared by the Clinton camp. As Hillary Clinton has divided up campaign time between Indiana and North Carolina, husband Bill has made more than 40 stops in small towns throughout the Tarheel State’s 100 counties. These are largely white communities not unlike the towns, suburbs and rural areas that gave Sen. Clinton a smashing win in the Pennsylvania primary last month.
Obama’s strength is concentrated in three major urban areas, all of which have a minimum of a third of African-American voters: Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and Raleigh-Durham. According to a report in the Politico, more than 350,000 voters in Raleigh-Durham have cast ballots in early voting and the number turning out at the polls is expected to reach one million–all presumably good news for Obama.
The passion for Obama among the African-American community (which comprises about 30% to 40% of the Democratic primary vote) was voiced by Robert Ikwan, a cabdriver I met today who is a Nigerian immigrant and proud U.S. citizen. In his words, "It has got to be Obama. He’s young, and fresh and hasn’t been tainted. When I came to the U.S., I thought Bill Clinton ruled well. But he got to be just like everyone else in Washington–dishonest–and if she is elected, he will be really running things again."
So now my prognosticators here in Raleigh have had their day. In a short time, it will be the voters’ turn.