|2008 Presidential outcome map|
While last night's run-off elections in North Carolina were hardly inspiring in terms of voter turn-out, Republicans were able to walk away with bragging rights, having overtaken the Democrats in terms of turnout. In a state where Democrats traditionally out-voted Republicans by three or four-to-one margins in statewide primaries and run-offs, this was a sign of continuing weakness by Democrats and another sign of growing GOP strength in a state Democrats hope to keep in play in the fall Presidential race.
While turnout was low, more than twice as many Republicans voted in the statewide run-off contests than Democrats last night. The one Democratic run-off race (Labor Commissioner) had 57,647 votes cast, while the lowest of three statewide GOP run-offs (Insurance Commissioner) had 136,296 votes cast. This was on the heels of the primaries, where Republicans and Democrats turned out roughly the same number of voters. The Democratic max was 934,287 votes cast in the Governor's race, dropping to 769,931 votes in the Agriculture Commissioner race, which was roughly matched by the 897,137 votes cast in a low-key GOP gubernatorial race and 772,584 in the Agriculture contest.
Comparing these totals to the total vote counts from the 2008 primary, both a major drop-off in Democratic voter interest and a major increase in Republican voter activity becomes apparent.
In 2008, 1,494,998 votes were cast in the Democratic primary for Governor, dropping to 1,200,407 votes in the Labor Commissioner primary. By contrast, just 504,973 voted in the GOP primary for Governor, dropping to a mere 395,570 in the Superintendent of Education primary. In spite of these lopsided primary vote totals, the Democrats barely won the Governor's race that year, the Republicans held onto the Labor Commissioner's office and Barack Obama won the state by roughly 14,000 votes out of over 4 million votes cast.
As primary turnouts can serve as a indicator of the level of enthusiasm, or lack thereof, by voters for the two major parties, a comparison of the 2008 and 2012 offers more hope for Republicans, who took control of the legislature in 2010, forced the incumbent Democratic Governor to opt not to seek a second term this year and appear poised to flip between two and four of the state's Congressional seats in November.
Combine these trends with averaging from Real Clear Politics suggests the GOP has an edge in the state's top two electoral contest, showing that Romney took the lead in the Tarheel state two months ago and Republican Pat McCrory consistently leading the race for North Carolina Governor and it's looking like Republicans have good reasons to feel upbeat about their prospects in the Tar Heel state on many levels.