This year‚??s Democratic National Convention resulted in a modest (and temporary) polling bump for President Barack Obama in the national race, but in the convention‚??s host state of North Carolina, Obama lost ground in the polls and never got it back.
There was scandal surrounding this year‚??s convention in Charlotte even before the first session gaveled open. Democratic National Committee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz pleaded ignorance after the committee fell far short of its fundraising goal for the convention, in spite of breaking a promise not to take donations from special interests. Later, the Charlotte Democratic committee had to fall on its own sword after a video produced by the committee proclaiming ‚??government is the only thing we all belong to‚?Ě was met with a predictable backlash.
These failures and fumbles may have served to underline the preexisting disarray of the Democratic party in North Carolina. Gov. Gov. Bev Purdue, a Democrat, decided not to seek reelection earlier this year amid plummeting approval ratings, while scandal has tainted the North Carolina Democratic Party‚??s executive director, Jay Parmley, and the party‚??s chairman, David Parker.
Parmley stepped down in April on the heels of sexual harassment allegations, and Parker initially considered resignation but chose to stay on amid calls to step down, throwing the party into even greater chaos.
Add to this the state‚??s abysmal 9.6 percent unemployment rate, and it‚??s easy to see why Republican challenger Mitt Romney has had the upper hand in the state almost continuously since June, with sizeable bumps coinciding with the political conventions and the first presidential debate.
‚??North Carolina has been a mess for the Democratic Party, and I think voters are ready for a change in direction generally for the state,‚?Ě said Rachel Adams, the North Carolina Victory communications director for the Republican National Committee.
Where Republican presidential candidate John McCain trailed Obama by nearly three percentage points four years ago, Romney now leads by a margin of almost four.
The difference between this election cycle and the race in 2008, when Obama won North Carolina by a very narrow margin, is in the enthusiasm and momentum behind the Republican party, said Adams.
‚??The energy is much stronger on the ground; the excitement is much more evident,‚?Ě she said. ‚??We‚??re seeing more independents swing our way for sure than they did in 2008.‚?Ě
So far, Republican campaigners in the state have knocked on over a million doors and made over three million telephone calls. With the start of early voting, a period that traditionally sees strong Democratic turnout, Adams said the campaign ground game is maintaining intensity.
A Republican strategist in Raleigh, Ballard Everett, said the Romney campaign held the momentum in North Carolina going into the final week before the election, and the state‚??s 1.5 million unaffiliated voters were taking notice.
‚??In the first debate, a lot of them that were undecided started to look a little closer at Mitt Romney and saw that he was a little more prepared,‚?Ě Everett said, citing Romney‚??s positions on jobs and the economy and his presidential poise as factors that stood out to N.C. voters on the fence.
Also in play, Everett said, were the state‚??s population of conservative Democratic voters who voted for Obama last election cycle.
‚??They‚??ve gone to the Democratic party over the last few years who are saying now, ‚??I‚??m not quite sure he was the guy I should have voted for,‚??‚?Ě Everett said.