North Carolina's Senate race radically changed

The World
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: This is The Takeaway, I'm John Hockenberry. Adaori Udoji is in Atlanta and Patrik Henry Bass is here in the studio with me, we're going to talk about North Carolina, a place near and dear to your heart, Patrik. We're joined now by Rob Christensen of the Raleigh News and Observer. In 2004, 56 percent of the population, voting population voted for George Bush. It wasn't the case yesterday. Rob, what happened in North Carolina? And there really seemed to be two headlines out of your state. ROB CHRISTENSEN: Well, obviously Obama won by the narrowest margin. It was up in the air until the wee hours this morning. I think the total margin for Obama was like 11,000 votes, which was like less than the number of write-ins in the state in, in the presidential race. So it was a razor-thin margin. But that he won at all is, is amazing. The - I think of all the states that Obama won, this was the state that was the most typically Southern state. Virginia, I think, has become in large part, a suburb of, of DC and Florida has a lot of transplants. Several things here going on. One is that North Carolina has, for the last half century, been viewed as the more moderate, among the more moderate of the Southern states. You know, in the 1990s, it nearly twice elected Harvey Gant, the former Charlotte mayor and a black architect. He ran very close competitive races, losing to Republican Senator Jesse Helms. The - we've had a tremendous number of newcomers into particularly the metropolitan areas and like the Raleigh-Durham area, the Triangle and the Charlotte area and the Tri - which is Greensboro and Winston-Salem. And, and I think also, Obama - North Carolina mattered in the primary. You know, usually North Carolina's primary - [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE] JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Sure. ROB CHRISTENSEN: - which is in May is so late that the pre - the presidential nominee is already chosen. But this time, there was a full-fledged primary between Obama and Hillary Clinton. So Obama spent a lot of time here in the primary, and people got to know him personally and, and of course, see the advertising. And, and he set up a huge organization here. And so I think that was part of his calculus in gambling on North Carolina is that he just went from the primary in May and just went right into the general election. [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE] JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Give me, give me a sense of the House races though, Rob before we, before we go and Patrik has a question for you. ROB CHRISTENSEN: A sense of - JOHN HOCKENBERRY: The House races in - in North Carolina. ROB CHRISTENSEN: Well, the House races that North Carolina - the Democrats picked up one House seat and - Robin Hayes [?], a Republican loss. And of course, in the Senate, a huge upset. You know, Elizabeth Dole, one of the best-known names in, in American politics, lost. And part of it was the, the Obama effect and the Democratic tie. Part of it was, you know, she campaigned very closely with President Bush. In fact, the White House in 2002, when she was elected - in fact she was recruited to run for the Senate seat by the White House and, and she couldn't shake her close association with, with Bush, no matter how much she tried. And - and there was a sense that also, that, you know, she had lived most of her adult life in Washington and this was not a time to be seen as, as part of the Washington establishment. JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Well, of course, the question really is in North Carolina, is, is this going to be a cult of personality around Barack Obama that, that sort of is associated with him? Or has the Obama campaign really elicited some of these deeper kinds of economic phenomena that represent changes in the state as you've described, Rob. Great stuff. Rob Christensen from the Raleigh News and Observer. Author of The Paradox of Tarheel Politics joining us from Raleigh. Thanks, Rob. ROB CHRISTENSEN: Sure.