Races to watch leading up to Election Day



No doubt you are sick of the endless television advertisements, misguiding campaign mailers, soulless fundraising emails, and the traffic when Vice President Joe Biden or vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan come to town.

But bear with it at least until November: North Carolina is that much more important since it's a contested swing state. As we enter October, here is what to watch for in state politics, assuming you can pry yourself away from horror movie marathons:

Election day is coming...are you ready?
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  • Election day is coming...are you ready?

Dalton vs. McCrory, is there any hope?
Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory has consistently maintained a sizeable, usually double-digit, lead in the governor's race over his Democratic opponent Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton. The latest numbers from Public Policy Polling have McCrory up 47 percent to 37 percent.

Depressing, but not surprising. Gov. Beverly Perdue put Dalton in a tough spot when she waited until the last minute to decide not to run again, giving his campaign a late, awkward start. McCrory hasn't stopped running since Perdue beat him four years ago. He has successfully tied Dalton to her immensely unpopular administration and the supposed Democratic corruption in Raleigh going back to former Gov. Mike Easley.

Dalton has been unable to match the warchest McCrory has assembled, and that has made things tough for him. And, the familiar attacks on McCrory's failure to release his tax returns have not worked like they have on Mitt Romney. And independent voters and cross-over Democrats seem to be rewarding McCrory for his ability to propose bold ideas like off-shore drilling, fracking and charter schools, even if they do not entirely agree with them.

Dalton has offered fewer new ideas and has run a more comfortable establishment campaign that the state's progressive community has never fully embraced. This strategy has held back his fundraising from smaller donors and grassroots support in the field.

But Dalton does have a solid and hard hitting new ad out where African-American leaders take McCrory to task for supporting a voter ID bill. According to Public Policy Polling, McCrory has been receiving more of the black vote in North Carolina than Romney, and this ad and the recent endorsement of Charlotte's Black Political Caucus should help Dalton reel in a minority vote.

There is another debate tonight between Dalton and McCrory, and given the first presidential debate follows it, voters might finally watch in large numbers. But Dalton has to find a way to win back straying Democrats and win over independents because tonight is one of his last chances to grab some headlines. Can he do it?

Will Roberts vs. Pittenger be a fight to the finish?
Recent polling has Mecklenburg County Commisioner Jenninfer Roberts within the margin of error in her bid for North Carolina's 9th Congressional District Seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Her opponent, former state Sen. Robert Pittenger, may still be struggling to unite the Republican-leaning district behind him after a divisive primary that went to a runoff with former Mecklenburg County Sheriff Jim Pendergraph.

Roberts performed strongly in the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce debate and has momemtum. The question is will she have enough money to make things interesting on election night?

The other House races
A string of bad news has plagued Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell in the nearby 8th Congressional District. He skipped the Democratic National Convention and received bad press because of it. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has pulled out their advertising money, which might mean they've given up on his chances of reelection.

But after 2010, Kissell has proved that he's a survivor, and the National Rifle Organization (of all organizations) has just endorsed him.

At least he is not tarnishing his political career by trying to save it, the way that fellow Congressman Mike McIntyre is doing right now.

McIntyre has a new ad out attacking his Republican opponent David Rouzer for "supporting amnesty for illiegal immigrants" and blames undocumented immigrants for "stealing our jobs." That's an awfully low position to stoop to for an incumbent Democrat, and it smacks of the type of immigrant bashing ad you'd have seen in 2002, not 2012.

Like Kissell, McIntyre is running in a district that has been redrawn to favor conservatives. But there are ways to appeal to those voters - using values and tradition - without slinging borderline racist rhetoric.

McIntyre should take a page from Democratic candidate Hayden Rogers, who is running to replace retiring Congressman Heath Shuler in western North Carolina's 11th district. Rogers finally hit the airwaves this week, and his ads pretty much say to the viewing audience: yeah I may be a Democrat, but I am also a hick, and so are you. And that's a far nobler route to go than race baiting.

Which presidential campaign has the better ground game in North Carolina?
The polls have \Romney and President Barack Obama running neck and neck in the Tar Heel State, with things looking like they will come down to the wire.

If Romney loses states like Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa and Pennsylvania - and it's looking like he will - it probably won't matter what happens here. That North Carolina even matter is a sign of how poorly Romney's doing because the only time before 2008 that a Democratic presidential candidate won the Tar Heel state was Jimmy Carter back in 1976. But if Romney can turn things around after the first debate tonight, his comeback will probably start here.

Obama still has much of the same organization in North Carolina that carried him to victory four years ago, with offices from the mountains to the coast. But the state Republican party decided long ago they weren't going to be caught off guard this time. According to their spokesman Rob Lockwood, Republican volunteers have knocked on 100 times as many doors than at this time in 2008 and made 20 times the amount of phone calls. Their efforts could make a huge difference in a state where the race is so close.

Mecklenburg County will undoubtedly go for Obama. The question will be whether Obama's Organizing for America operation can turnout enough young and minority voters to offset Republican advantages in more rural parts of the state. If they can, that could also help other Democrats down the ballot, like Dalton.

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