Election 2016

North Carolina: Nail-biter Edition

Early voting favors Obama, but (notoriously unreliable) early exit polls show a possible Romney swing.

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In 2010, Big Money came a-calling in North Carolina. Big Red Money. And it paid off for the GOP, with a strong showing that year. Deep-pocketed Republicans like Art Pope, a discount-retail mogul, have continued to pour millions into the mix to turn the state rightward. Come tomorrow, you can safely bet that North Carolina will have a Republican governor, Pat McCrory, who has been way ahead in the polls, with a 15 point lead.  The GOP is hoping for a majority in the state's U.S. House delegation and to maintain control of the Legislature.

But what about the Prez? That’s the million-dollar question. In-person early voting broke records, and votes trended toward Obama, according to polls. State Board of Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett predicts that by day’s end, about 69 percent of the state’s 6.6 million registered voters will have cast ballots.

African American voters in the state, fired up last week by a visit from Grammy Award-winning singer Alicia Keys to N.C A&T, a traditionally black campus, will be essential to an Obama win. But a lot of folks are not keen on the president's performance these past years, and I have been told by some in the black community that Obama has seemed remote compared to a figure like Bill Clinton. One said he'd wished Obama had done a whistle-stop tour to help Tar Heels get to know him. Another told the Washington Postthat he had taken Richard Pryor's advice from a 1985 comedy sketch and had written in "None  of the Above" on his ballot.

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Latinos are only 3 percent of eligible voters, but every one of them matters in a tight race. No one is clear on how high turnout will be among Latinos, but Obama’s recent immigration stance has certanly made him more popular.

So far, North Carolina has seen fewer of the voting problems experienced in other swing states today, with civil rights groups keeping a close eye. A bomb threat turned out to be a hoax, and while there was some snow in the mountains, the weather was predicted to have little impact.

The first exit polls are showing that across the country, the economy is the main concern in 2102, with 6 out of 10 naming it as the top issue of the election. More than half do not like the direction the economy appears to be headed. North Carolina has a higher than-average unemployment rate, so it remains to be seen if Tar Heels believe that Romney or Obama is positioned to bring more jobs to the state. The Drudge Report shows a swing towards Romney in early exit polls, but these are notoriously unreliable. The state is still up for grabs.

Lynn Parramore is an author and cultural theorist. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.