Today, John McCain campaigned in my hometown. Wilmington, NC is the biggest city (about 100,000) in the very red, heavily rural eastern third of the state. It’s grown like crazy since I grew up there, as has the entire state. NC is now the tenth largest in population, having passed NJ several years ago. So it’s gone from being a state that pretty much no one who didn’t live there cared about to one that is actually important.
Most amazingly, it’s gone purple.
Carter in 1976 was the last Democrat to carry NC. That’s 32 years ago, and he was a southern white boy. Now polls show McCain and Obama in a dead heat there. Astonishing. If McCain can’t carry NC, especially Wilmington, he is truly toast.
I’ve been saying for weeks that the O team was nutty if they thought they could actually win NC, rather than just make McCain spend money there. I’ve always agreed with Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy for the Dems, because I thought it was essential for down-ballot races and nurturing new talent, especially in pink/purple states. However, I never thought it had the potential to pay off for national candidates in those states, at least not for several election cycles. But then, I didn’t know that the U.S. economy was about to experience a psychotic break.
I’m still skeptical that NC will end up in the Dem column on election night. Maybe I’m underestimating my homies – I hope so – but I think the state is just too white. If I’m wrong, and three weeks from today the networks call NC for Obama, consider that a signal to dig out your inaugural ball outfits. It will be all over but the dancing.