NC girding for 2012 presidential battle
Posted December 9, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina is considered one of the hottest battleground states in next year's presidential election.
The state was key to Barack Obama's presidential win in 2008, and Democrats are angling to make it important again. Republicans aren't about to concede North Carolina, however.
"To both parties, it's essential," Republican political strategist Marc Rotterman said. "Anyone who thinks it's going to be a cake walk is sorely mistaken."
"If Obama carries North Carolina, a Republican can't be elected president. A Republican has to have North Carolina," Democratic consultant Gary Pearce said. "We're a critically important state."
The president and first lady plan to visit Fort Bragg next week to welcome home troops from Iraq, which marks his fourth visit to North Carolina since June. Also, the Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte next September.
A recent survey by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling shows dead heat in North Carolina between Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, one of the front-runners for the Republican nomination. Another PPP poll puts Obama ahead of former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another GOP front-runner, in the state.
"If Newt becomes the nominee, I think that will change," said Rotterman, a longtime friend of Gingrich. "I'd love to see a debate between Barack Obama and Newt Gingrich."
Gingrich would appeal to North Carolina conservatives, he said. A recent PPP poll gives Gingrich a commanding 51-14 percent lead in the state over Romney.
"This is very good territory for Newt in North Carolina," Rotterman said.
"I think Romney's problem apparently with Republicans is he looks squishy. He does not look like a real conservative," Pearce said, adding that he thinks Romney is a bigger threat to Obama because he can reach out to moderate independent voters, especially if the economy doesn't turn around.
Both consultants predict a fiery race that will bring candidates to North Carolina frequently and pump millions of dollars for campaign ads into the state economy.