North Carolina Remains Unclaimed After Historic Election

This story was written by Chris Allred, Technician


The day after Democrats swept the senatorial and gubernatorial races in the state, North Carolina is still marked as too close to call in the presidential election.

President-elect Barack Obama has locked up the election with 349 electoral votes, making North Carolina's selection less significant, but, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Obama is ahead of Republican John McCain by less than 20,000 votes.

According to New York Times exit polls, this year's youth vote, as compared to the overall number of voters, increased. Those between the ages of 18 and 29 made up 18 percent of all voters. In 2004, this group accounted for 17 percent of all voters.

Total votes amounted to less than 130 million, but some experts have said it could be the largest turnout since 1968.

North Carolina is now a swing state, stuck with Missouri as the lone states not to have decisive winners, and as demographics have changed in Democrats' favor in the state, North Carolina State University assistant professor of political science Chris Ellis said it is likely to remain a red, Republican-voting state in the future.

"North Carolina just followed the national tide," he said.

And as the Republican party looks to pick up the pieces from Tuesday's losses, Ellis said the youth vote could hurt the party in the future.

The GOP's possible youth problem

(UWIRE) -- According to the Times' exit polls, 66 percent of voters between 18 and 29 voted for Obama, leaving only 31 percent for McCain.

The way young people vote will often be the same as they vote later on in life, Ellis said.

"The fact that this generation has been so deeply supportive of Obama doesn't just matter now, it'll matter 40 years from now," he said.

Derek Gatlin, a senior in political science who volunteered for the Obama campaign, said Obama incorporated young people into the political process in new ways.

"It's not that we came out and voted for him, we did much more than voting for him," Gatlin said. "I went out and registered voters. I went out and held events and service projects in the name of Barack Obama. It was much more than just voting."

The Democrats have always attracted young people, according to Ches McDowell, chair of the College Republicans.

"Historically, young people vote Democrat," McDowell, a sophomore in political science, said. "I don't really know any other reason than they don't pay taxes."

The Republicans' problem this year was that Obama was a more attractive candidate for first-time voters, he said, as McCain's age made him a polarizing figure.

"The demographics of the party haven't changed in a long time," he said. "If we put up a candidate like Obama, a young, energetic guy, I think he could excite the young people like Obama did."

North Carolina's uncertain color

(UWIRE) -- According to Ellis, in a year where there isn't such a strong anti-Republican tide, voters would likely vote Republican for president in North Carolina.

North Carolina voters typically vote conservative for president and stick to Democrats in the state government, which provided an interesting situation for formal gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory.

Ellis and McDowell said McCrory likely lost the election from voters that were voting straight ticket with the Democrats.

"If people wanted change, Pat McCrory's the change candidate," McDowell said.

The way Republicans can gain back voters is to return to their traditional messages of low government speding, McDowell said, which the Bush administration has gone away from.

"If the republicans go back to the basics, back to their true roots, back to their true ideals, then more people in general, not just young people, will be attracted to them," he said. "This year was the year for Republicans in state government. North Carolina really obviously wanted change, and we voted for change in the presidential election but not at all in the state races."

Gatlin said he agreed that the GOP had gotten away from its basic principles.

"They're calling for a rethinking of what it means to be a Republican," he said. "There's not one clear leader right now because of that loss of identity. They're going to have to do some soul searching."

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