Raleigh, N.C. — Many stories, no matter how complex, often come down to one word. Are they about a hero or villain, loss or triumph, etc...
That said, statewide campaigns are complex organisms with lots of different story lines. So if you'll allow some bloggerly license, here are ten words – ten different stories– on I'm watching in the race for governor. And as they say on Sesame Street, today's post is brought to you by the letters...
Obama - President Barack Obama is playing hard to win North Carolina a second time. That means lots of dollars investing in voter recruitment and turnout efforts. Turnout out Democrats, who will also be encouraged to go for the rest of the Democratic ticket will be a boon to Dalton.
Ohio - Recent polls have suggested that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney might have a problem in Florida and Ohio, key swing states. If Ohio really is an issue, that will incentive for him to work hard to win North Carolina to try to replace some of those electoral votes. Lots of money for TV ads and a more robust ground game than Sen. John McCain had in 2008 can't help but boost McCrory's chances.
Money - Simply put, McCrory has it, Dalton does not - at least not in the same quantity. While McCrory was able to cruise to victory as the presumptive nominee in the Spring, Dalton had to burn cash on a primary. Their second quarter campaign finance reports showed McCrory had a fundraising lead and indications from media buyers is that McCrory has more money to burn on advertising.
Mitt - Polls and interviews suggest there are a large number of GOP voters who are motivated by the idea of getting rid of Obama. If reporting on national polling trends and other factors convince some of these voters that Romney is a lost cause, will those voters lose their drive to head to the polls?
Polls - McCrory has been enjoying leads in publicly available polls as of late. And according to operatives who know about polls the parties don't share, it is McCrory's lead in the Charlotte area that is most significant. Four years ago, McCrory lost his home county of Mecklenburg by a thin margin. That allowed Perdue to win other parts of the state and edge him out. This year, campaign folks tell me that internal polls show McCrory running well in the Charlotte area. If he runs far enough ahead, there may not be enough voters in the rest of the state for Dalton to make up a big gap in the state's most populous city.
Pasquotank - ... or pretty much any county you pick down in the eastern part of the state. Dalton has to hope that the Eastern Democratic machine that worked so well for the likes of governor's Jim Hunt, Mike Easley and Bev Perdue still has some gas in the tank.
Oddly enough, one P word seems off the table. Gov. Bev Perdue hasn't been getting a lot of media attention lately. While that means she hasn't been able to confer support upon Dalton, it also means that some of her prior missteps - suspending elections anyone? – have not been in the spotlight. Part of McCrory's campaign strategy is to closely tie Dalton to Perdue. Do we call this one a draw?
Friends - Republican governors Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, and Scott Walker and former governor Jeb Bush have all been in the state campaigning for McCrory. The Republican Governor's Association is running television and radio ads on his behalf. In short, McCrory is getting help as the national GOP, which sees North Carolina as an opportunity to expand their holds on governor's mansions.
Free Media - Three gubernatorial debates are scheduled in the coming weeks. These could be critical opportunities for Dalton to speak to voters across the state. As for McCrory, having lots of friends come stump with him has earned him a bunch of free media.
Early Voting - While mail in ballots are already on their way, early in person voting begins on Oct. 18. Both candidates should be invested in getting as many of their voters to the polls before Election Day as they can. The more votes they lock in, the fewer the other side can grab and the more time they can spend pushing voters who need an extra nudge to get to the polls.
Employment - According to the state Employment Security Commission, "Unemployment rates decreased in 72 of North Carolina’s 100 counties in August, increased in 18 and were unchanged in 10." Both McCrory and Dalton have been running on who would better handle the economy. Changes in the unemployment rate may change how voters receive those messages.