Gaining political clout?

Published 8:00 am Monday, November 3, 2008

By Staff
The 2008 presidential election will make history. Either the nation will have its first black president, or it will have its first female vice president.
Either way, history is going to be made on Election Day.
The 2008 presidential race has been significant in another way. North Carolina has been labeled as a battleground state. That has not happened in many a year. Late last week, an report by The Associated Press noted that Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, was leading Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, in each of the eight battleground states: North Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
North Carolina has not gone for the Democratic presidential nominee since Tarheels supported Jimmy Carter in 1976. The report had Obama with a 2-percent lead over McCain, 48 percent to 46 percent, respectively. Of course, the only election-related numbers that matter are the votes North Carolina voters cast Election Day.
If Obama maintains his lead over McCain, North Carolina will have gone Democratic for the first time in 32 years.
The AP report also shows that Democratic voters are dominating in early voting, which is allowed in some form in 30 states, including North Carolina. A week before Election Day, about 1.6 million Tarheel voters had taken part in early voting, with 54 percent of those voters being Democrats and 29 percent being Republicans. The remaining 17 percent of voters marking ballots early include unaffiliated voters and voters aligned with other parties.
In North Carolina, about 100,000 newly registered voters have voted at the one-stop voting centers across the state, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans by about a 2-1 margin, according to state elections officials
In a general election, voters may cross party lines, but the early indications clearly favor Obama, according to The Associated Press report.
For the first time in a long time, North Carolina finds itself in a position to have a significant effect on the presidential election. The difference in winning and losing the presidential election could come down to which candidate wins the right combination of battleground states to assure victory.
That’s why the presidential candidates, the vice-presidential candidates, their spouses and others have been making numerous campaign stops in North Carolina in recent days. They are not coming to the Old North State at this time of the year to see the leaves change colors.
Anticipating a significant increase in the number of voters marking their ballots early this election season, the Beaufort County Board of Elections chose to stay open later during the early voting period and open satellite polling places in Belhaven and Aurora during the early voting period. The board deserves praise for taking those actions to better serve voters.
When presidential candidates visit North Carolina almost on a daily basis to court its voters, they are sending signals that the state’s voters are important to them. Well, it is important for North Carolina to put someone in the White House who will best take care of the nation and the state. This election season, North Carolina voters should have been asking each candidate what is in it for them if they support that candidate.
Votes for a candidate are, in a way, an investment in that candidate. The candidate who is elected will have four years to provide a return on that investment. If that investment does not pay an acceptable dividend, then North Carolina could become a battleground state in yet another political war in four years.
North Carolina, as its population continues to grow, could be on its way to becoming a must-have state for presidential candidates. If that does happen, look for the Old North State to have more political clout with those candidates.