Local Politics

Obama expands fight to turn N.C. blue

Posted August 12, 2008 6:03 p.m. EDT
Updated August 13, 2008 10:35 a.m. EDT

— Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama continues to expand his base of operations in North Carolina, hoping to capture a state in the November election that traditionally votes Republican.

Obama has opened 16 campaign offices across the state in recent weeks, five times as many as Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The GOP overall has nine North Carolina offices.

"We're going to fight for every vote in this state. There's no question about that," said Susan Lagana, a spokeswoman for Obama's campaign.

North Carolina hasn't backed a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter in 1976. The party has seen a surge of new voters statewide this year, however.

More than 162,000 Democrats have been added to the state's voter rolls since early January, according to State Board of Elections figures. Republican registrations have grown by fewer than 19,000 in that time.

"It says people are ready for a change," Lagana said. "The last eight years have been hard on North Carolina in a lot of ways."

Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, said he thinks the excitement of the tight Democratic primary race between Obama and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton contributed to the increase in voter registration.

"If the Democrats are going to win North Carolina in an election in the near future and they don't do it in 2008, it's going to probably be a long time until they do it again," Taylor said.

Still, state Republican Party spokesman Brent Woodcox said the numbers might be misleading.

"In Wake County, Democrats had 42 percent (of registered voters) in 2004, and they still have 42 percent. Nothing's changed," Woodcox said.

Wake County has added 21,507 Democrats this year, compared with 1,305 newly registered Republicans, according to the State Board of Elections.

The ranks of independent voters also have swelled this year, with 113,451 added statewide and 12,897 in Wake County. Both campaigns say that drawing unaffiliated voters could determine the final result this fall.

"We're (not) going to take anything for granted," Woodcox said.