BY MICHAEL BECKEL – The 2012 Democratic National Convention will convene in Charlotte, N.C., a city already bursting with political love for President Barack Obama: Its residents favored Obama with their campaign cash during his 2008 presidential bid and its voters helped the Democratic Obama edge out Republican John McCain to win the state’s 15 Electoral College votes.
During the 2008 election cycle, political donors in the sprawling Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill metropolitan area who gave more than $200 favored Obama with more than $2 for every $1 McCain received. According to research by the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama collected $1.36 million from donors in this region. McCain, meanwhile, received about $660,300.
Across the entire state of North Carolina, Obama also reaped more financial success than McCain.
Residents of North Carolina overall favored Obama by an even greater level than the Charlotte region: $2.46 to Obama for every $1 McCain collected, according to the Center’s research.
In all, Obama raised $6.35 million from residents of North Carolina, and McCain raised $2.58 million, from residents of North Carolina who contributed at least $200 to either man, according to the Center’s analysis.
In contrast, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) — Republican presidential hopefuls who lost the GOP nomination battle to McCain in 2008 and who may seek the nomination again in 2012 — collected paltry sums of campaign cash from residents of North Carolina.
Romney brought in about $373,350 from North Carolinians who gave at least $200, while Huckabee raised about $302,750. Paul collected about $238,250, according to the Center’s calculations.
Federal law only requires detailed information — such as a donor’s name, occupation and address — for contributions that exceed $200. If someone contributes $200 or less to a federal politician, the campaign is not required to itemize that contribution in its reports with the Federal Election Commission — the basis of the data used in the Center’s analysis.
During the 2008 election cycle, all federal candidates and party committees collected $43.3 million in itemized contributions from North Carolinians, with Democrats collecting about 52 percent of this sum, according to the Center’s research. During the 2010 election cycle, the state’s donors gave about $24.3 million, with Republicans receiving about 59 percent of that amount.
Political observers say it’s too soon to tell if Obama will again see sizeable fund-raising successes in North Carolina.
“The difference between Obama and Republican challenger fund-raising will likely depend on who is the Republican candidate,” Martha Kropf, an associate professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, told OpenSecrets Blog. “If it is someone who is able excite the Republicans and call for a change, then the Republicans could increase their fund-raising. Democrats may obtain less.”
In 2008, despite his fund-raising prowess, Obama carried North Carolina by roughly three-tenths of one percentage point — fewer than 15,000 votes out of more than 4.3 million votes cast. If half the people who voted for Libertarian Party presidential nominee Bob Barr — who got 25,722 votes — had cast votes for McCain instead, Obama would have lost.
Prior to Obama’s victory, North Carolina had not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976. Democrats John Kerry and Al Gore each lost the state by about 13 percentage points in 2004 and 2000, respectively.
As Obama seeks re-election in 2012, some Democrats hope North Carolina will again be in play — as well as some of its neighboring states.
For instance, during the November 2008 election, Obama carried the regional powerhouse of Florida, where he won 51 percent of the vote and bested McCain by about 3 percentage points. Obama also won Virginia by 6 percentage points — with 52.6 percent of the vote.
Furthermore, Obama captured 47 percent of the vote in Georgia, losing by 5.2 percentage points — more than 11 percentage points better than Kerry in 2004 and about 6.6 percentage points better than Gore in 2000.
Election observers agree that the Democrats’ choice to name Charlotte the host of the Democratic National Convention next year should be seen as a signal for the political fight ahead.
“The choice of convention is an attempt to help mobilize the ‘New South’ to vote Democratic — to vote for the Democratic party of today, rather than the Democratic party of the past,” Kropf said. “How well Obama does here will depend on how well the campaign can mobilize the young African American/black population. I think having the convention here could certainly help with that.”
Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, concurred that Democrats were telegraphing a message with the pick of their convention host.
“The Charlotte choice says that Obama will fight for his weakest 2008 link, the Tar Heel State,” Sabato told OpenSecrets Blog. “He may or may not win it, but the signal sent to Virginia and Florida is unmistakable — the Democrats will fight hard to retain their Southern beachhead.”