North Carolina is Romney’s to Lose; Obama Abandoned by his Army of Enthusiastic Young Volunteers Discouraged by Unemployment

by johndavis, April 19, 2012

North Carolina is Romney’s to Lose; Obama Abandoned by his Army of Enthusiastic Young Volunteers Discouraged by Unemployment “The central question is likely to be whether Obama can turn out as many young people in this college-heavy state as he did in 2008. With massive 18-29 turnout, North Carolina looks doable for Obama. Without it,
[More…]

North Carolina is Romney’s to Lose; Obama Abandoned by his Army of Enthusiastic Young Volunteers Discouraged by Unemployment

“The central question is likely to be whether Obama can turn out as many young people in this college-heavy state as he did in 2008. With massive 18-29 turnout, North Carolina looks doable for Obama. Without it, probably not.”

The Washington Post, The Fix, Chris Cillizza, April 16, 2012

Post: Thursday, April 19, 2012       Vol. V, No. 14      1:13 pm

President Obama cannot win a second term without the army of enthusiastic young campaign volunteers responsible for his first victory, and thus far they are nowhere to be found.  They have not abandoned the cause, they have abandoned the leader of the cause.

On April 16, 2012, Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, editor of the politics blog The Fix, argued in a story The 9 swing states of 2012, that if Obama does not get a large turnout of young voters in North Carolina, he is not likely to carry the state in 2012.

Well, Obama is not likely to carry the state.  The facts tell the whole story:

  • Obama carried North Carolina by only 14,179 votes out of 4,310,623 cast in 2008
  • New registered voters in the 18-to-24-year-old age group in 2008 totaled 317,584
  • CNN exit polls show 17% of all North Carolina voters in 2008 were 18-to-29-year-olds
  • Barack Obama won 72% of the 18-to-29-year-old-voters to John McCain 28%

Bottom line:  Without the young voters in North Carolina doing the hard work of registering and turning out voters in record numbers in 2008 … especially during the early voting periods of the May Primary and the November General Election … Obama never would have won.

Obama Defeated Clinton and McCain in North Carolina with Young Volunteers

On May 6, 2008, Primary Election Day exit polling here in North Carolina was so conclusive that the moment the polls closed the national networks declared Barack Obama the winner over Hillary Clinton.

David Plouffe, President Obama's campaign manager, revealed the campaign secrets in his book The Audacity to Win.  Plouffe recalls the 14-point blowout in North Carolina this way:  “As the returns came in, we could see the traces of our strategy’s design: by registering over 100,000 new voters, producing strong turnout among African-Americans and young voters, and winning college-educated whites thanks to our stand against the gas tax, we made ourselves unbeatable in North Carolina."[1]

The unconventional strategy of targeting atypical voters in unlikely places like North Carolina continued throughout the fall.  Obama knew he could not defeat a Republican presidential nominee in the Old North State with TV ads, no matter how much money he spent.  His only hope was a massive ground game, registering and turning out non-traditional voters.

The Obama campaign had 47 headquarters in our state in 2008, with 400 paid staff in the twenty-something age group managing the army of thousands of enthusiastic young volunteers.

When the dust settled and the numbers were tallied in North Carolina following the November elections, 967,804 new voters had been registered during the year, with nearly 8 in 10 registering either as a Democrat or Unaffiliated, pushing our state to over 6 million registered voters for the first time ever.

New African-American voters totaled over 304,708; new voters in the 18-to-24-year-old age group totaled 317,584 … early voters in the fall of 2008 totaled 2.6 million of the 4.3 million votes cast (only 984,000 voted early in 2004), more than voted on Election Day.

Obama Has No Coattails

In the fall of 2009, only one year after millions of young voters throughout America carried Barack Obama to victory, we discovered that Obama had no coattails.  Young voters did not turn out for the Democrats in the two governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey.

Despite numerous pleas from the president during personal visits, only 8% of the 18-to-24-year-old voters turned out in New Jersey in the race that Republican Gov. Chris Christie won (17% in 2008), and only 10% of the 18-to-24-year-old voters turned out in Virginia in the race Republican Gov. Bob McDonald won (21% in 2008).

In a revealing story in Data-Net, July 2011, titled Young Adult Voting: 2010 falls short of 2008 by Eliza Kern, managing editor of reesenews, the “student powered” digital news publication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, it was reported that in the 2010 midterm elections in North Carolina, 18-to-25-year-olds "made up only 5% of the population who voted."  Kern points out that the turnout rate of young voters in 2010 was only 17%, "… as compared to a 60% turnout rate for citizens older than 66."

Noting that young Republicans turned out at a significantly higher rate than Young Democrats in 2010 (24% compared to 17% for young Democrats), Kern writes, "... it does raise questions as to the depth of young Democrats’ commitments to their party and their president that was so widely touted after the 2008 election.  This question of their commitment will remain highly relevant in the upcoming 2012 reelection campaign."

Republicans will not take North Carolina for Granted in 2012

No one thought Obama could win North Carolina in 2008, so Republicans took this state for granted.  McCain/Palin didn’t campaign here until the very end, and then it was too late.

The brilliance of the Obama campaign in North Carolina in 2008 cannot be overstated.  They operated under the radar with a ground game only, thereby not alarming the opposition with a high profile TV ad campaign.

Obama has little chance of carrying North Carolina in 2012 in part because he has lost the surprise factor.  But the main reason Obama has virtually no chance of carrying North Carolina in 2012 is that he does not have the army of enthusiastic young volunteers to do the hard work of registering and turning out voters.

Youth employment in America is at a 60-year low.  Over 18% of Americans aged 18 to 24 are unemployed.  According to an April 19, 2012 NPR story, Educated And Jobless: What’s Next For Millennials”, “Only 55 percent of people ages 16 to 29 have a job — the lowest percentage since World War II. A quarter of people between ages 25 and 34 are living with their parents, and new numbers out this week say people under 35 are worth 68 percent less than they were 25 years ago.”

Obama may be able to raise enough money to rent the 47 headquarters he had in North Carolina in 2008, and he may be able to pay for 400 workers again to staff them, but he can’t buy the army of enthusiastic young campaign volunteers responsible for his victory.

Young voters have not abandoned the cause of hope and change, they have abandoned the leader of the cause.  Without them, he cannot carry North Carolina in 2012; without them he cannot win a second term as president of the United States of America.

- END -

Thank you for reading the John Davis Political Report

John N. Davis, Editor


[1] The Audacity to Win, page 229.

[2] Union contributions and independent expenditures database provided by Civitas Institute

[3] http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/indexp.php

[4] The Wall Street Journal, SEIU Campaign Spending Pays Political Dividends, May 16, 2009

If you are not a subscriber, please consider subscribing.  The Premium Annual Subscription is $245.  You can subscribe online at www.johndavisconsulting.com/subscribe, or complete the subscription form here and mail to John Davis Political Report, P.O. Box 30714, Raleigh, NC, 27622.P.S.:  Need a speaker?  Let me know if you need a speaker or a moderator for a political panel.  I moderated a panel Wednesday for the Independent Insurance Agents of NC featuring David Parker, Chair of the NC Democratic Party, and Robin Hayes, Chair, NC Republican Party. Audiences are particularly interested in politics this year due to the nation’s economic crisis and the many other uncertainties.  Inquire about availability here.  jnd


Comments are closed.