While much of the media is buzzing about Indiana, which remains a highly competitive state, North Carolina looms large. It holds 115 delegates. Barack Obama is the prohibitive favorite, and a win there is just what he needs to stop the bleeding and calm the superdelegates. It’s hard to see how Hillary Clinton could win there. But she might make it close.
For starters, the electorate is about 40% African American. If Obama gets 90% of that vote (which is what he got in Pennsylvania) Clinton would need roughly 75% of the white vote. Not impossible–she got 63% in Pennsylvania–but no easy feat.
More critically for Clinton, North Carolina is not the Rust Belt. This is where the jobs went over the last 20 years. With big universities and lots of white-collar professionals, Obama will almost certainly do far better than he did in places like Bob Casey’s Lackawanna County in northeast Pennsylvania where he got trounced 74%-25%.
What about rural whites? Clinton’s hopes lie with those voters, but many of them in North Carolina have become Republican over the last generation. And though they could re-register to vote in the Democratic primary, there is a contested GOP gubernatorial primary to keep them busy.
So Clinton’s chances don’t look good. That might, in this counterintutive election season, be a blessing in disguise. A closer-than-expected finish might be what she needs to raise brewing doubts about Obama to a boil. Just as a narrow win in Pennsylvania for Clinton would have been her death knell, a squeaker for Obama in North Carolina will spell trouble. How likely is it? Not very. But, then again, most gurus didn’t think she’d win Pennsylvania by ten points.