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Pollster: Obama doing well in conservative N. Carolina districts

Tom Jensen, pollster at Raleigh's Public Policy Polling, says in a blog entry Wednesday that Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory has found support in an unlikely place - white Democrats in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties.

We caught up with Jensen to ask what his numbers might mean for McCrory.

A bonus: Jensen forecasts how N.C. will vote for governor and president.

The Ballot: White democrats for Pat? What are your numbers showing?

Jensen: We did in-depth analysis of how folks were voting in a couple Charlotte region Congressional districts (the 8th and 10th) and found that Pat McCrory is holding Bev Perdue under 60% with white Democrats in those areas.

By comparison, (Democrat) Mike Easley earned upwards of 80% from those voters in 2004. It's not a huge surprise given what a constant presence McCrory has been on Charlotte area airwaves over the last 10+ years, but it’s that crossover support allowing him to keep the race competitive statewide in a political climate that’s so tough for Republicans.

The Ballot: Oddly, you say that Barack Obama also is doing well in those conservative districts. Why is that?

Jensen: Barack Obama is down by an average of 12 points in these two districts. That doesn't sound good, until you consider that John Kerry lost them by an average of 23. So Obama is significantly outpacing recent Democratic performance.

Increased black turnout is certainly a major factor helping Obama's chances of taking the state, but he's also going to benefit from voters who just generally are not happy with the direction the country has gone in under Republican leadership the last four years. President Bush's approval rating in these districts he won comfortably is mired in the low-30s, and that's pushing about 10% of the electorate into the Democratic column.

The Ballot: Do you see the Governor's race continuing to stay tight? (Note: Perdue led McCrory 43-38 in an Aug. 27 survey.)

Jensen: I think the Governor’s race will be close in the polling to the end, particularly because about 25% of black voters are saying that they're undecided about everything but President right now.

A big question is whether folks are going to come out and just vote for Obama, or if they vote the whole Democratic ticket. If they do the latter, it may be difficult for any Republican to win statewide office this year, given Obama's turnout machine. If I had to hazard a guess, I say Perdue wins by 6-7 points in November — but a lot could happen between now and then.

The Ballot: While you're in a predicting mood, how does the presidential race play out in N.C.?

Jensen: African Americans make up about 22% of the state's population, but in 2004 were just 18.6% of the electorate here. Our analysis has found that Obama needs blacks to comprise 23% of the folks who vote this fall if he’s going to win the state.

I think he’ll get close, but that’s an incredibly tall order. McCain wins N.C. by 2-4 points, but it goes in the book as a Pyrrhic victory when Obama takes Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado on his way to a comfortable victory overall.