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Opinion | One Purple State Is ‘Testing the Outer Limits of MAGAism’

BusinessOpinion | One Purple State Is ‘Testing the Outer Limits of MAGAism’

Among key Democratic constituencies, the nonwhite share of the population grew to 38.5 percent from 28.8 percent over those 23 years, and the percentage with college degrees rose to 33.9 percent from 22.2 percent.

Sarah Treul, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, argued in an email that predictions of a purple North Carolina are overblown:

I think the speculation that the population growth in North Carolina around Raleigh and Charlotte would fuel the success of the Democratic Party was misguided or at least premature.

A lot of the growth around the Research Triangle area, for example, is occurring in suburbs and exurbs that tend to vote more Republican. Places such as Johnston County and northeast Wake County, including Wake Forest and Zebulon, are places seeing massive population growth and are also places where Republicans traditionally perform very well.

Treul wrote that

much of the success of the North Carolina Democratic Party decades ago was built on conservative or at least moderate platforms. As much of the national Democratic Party has shifted its attention to progressive politics, it should not surprise the party that counties that used to be reliably Democratic in the 1990s are now reliably Republican.

Reconnecting with these voters, in Treul’s view, “still needs to be a part of the Democratic Party’s strategy if it wants to win statewide office.”

Candis Watts Smith, a political scientist at Duke, described North Carolina in an email as “a purple state demographically” with a Republican Party that “has moved to the right faster than Democrats have shifted to the left.”

These trends, in Smith’s view, are likely to improve Democratic prospects:

Given the extreme culture-war-focused policy stances that candidates like Robinson are offering, many North Carolina Democrats may be inclined to turn out. If North Carolinians, like many other Americans, are not particularly interested in a rematch of the 2020 presidential election, they may certainly be watchful of down-ballot races — and Biden may benefit from that.

Smith provided data, however, that suggested that the rapid growth of North Carolina, including the influx of many immigrants from other states, has not worked to the advantage of Democrats. She cited a University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, report, “How Have Registered Voters in N.C. Shifted Demographically Over the Past Decade?,” that found that “North Carolina has added nearly one million new registered voters since 2013. In that time span, there has been an increase of over 210,000 new Republican voters, a decrease of over 350,000 Democrats, and an increase of over 960,000 unaffiliated voters.”

Jason Matthew Roberts, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, pointed out that ticket splitting, a practice in decline throughout most of the United States, remains a characteristic of North Carolina politics:

North Carolina voters do regularly split their tickets in statewide and national races. The current governor, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat who has managed to win two terms at the same time that the Republican presidential candidate won the state.

Given that, Roberts maintained,

it is not clear to me that nominees like Robinson and Morrow will necessarily help President Biden. It would not be at all surprising to see Robinson lose the governorship to Josh Stein, the current attorney general, while seeing Trump carry the state in the presidential contest.

Overall, Roberts contended in an email,

there are two countervailing political trends at work in North Carolina. The Research Triangle, or the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill and surrounding suburbs, area is growing very rapidly, and it is also an area that is extremely well educated. Nationwide, we are seeing more educated voters move toward the Democratic Party, and you clearly see that in the Triangle and in Charlotte and its suburbs.

At the same time, a lot of rural voters who traditionally voted for Democrats statewide have started voting more Republican. So far the rural/Republican trend has counterbalanced the Triangle/Democratic trend, and the Republicans have won more times than not in statewide races in recent years.

Anderson Clayton, the new chair of the state Democratic Party, Roberts wrote, “ran on a platform of trying to reach more rural voters. This fall it will be an interesting test to see how effective that strategy has been and to see if the growth trend has been able to overtake the rural trend.”

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