The North Carolina electorate, boosted by recent demographic changes, is an important state in the presidential election. In general elections prior to 2008, NC was described as a “flyover state” between Florida and Ohio—states which have traditionally been vital to a candidate’s success. But in this year’s election, NC is the sixth most likely “tipping point state,” according to the political statistics website, FiveThirtyEight.
In the battle for 270 Electoral College votes (the minimum amount a candidate needs to win the election,) several battleground states play an outside role in determining the election’s outcome. Battleground states have demographics that can allow either party to win the state.
Whichever candidate wins NC will receive all fifteen of the state’s votes, accounting for 2.8% of the total electoral vote. Though fifteen votes may seem insignificant, it’s the ability of either candidate to win the election.
According to the Real Clear Politics polling average, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 0.8 percentage points, 44.3%-43.5%. If the election were held today, that would make NC’s race the closest in the country.
Prior to the 2008 election, NC was considered a solidly Republican state—George W. Bush won with 56% of the vote in 2000. However, after more than a million people from the Northeast moved to suburban NC, Barack Obama won NC in 2008 by a 0.03% margin. In 2012’s Obama-Romney election, Romney narrowly took the state back for Republicans.
NC’s electorate is more diverse than the country as a whole, due to the aforementioned mini-migration of Northerners, as well as a swelling of the Black population in NC. This newfound diversity has contributed to NC’s attractiveness as a campaign target.
Donald Trump makes at least one visit to NC each week. For the Republican nominee, NC is a “must win state,” The News and Observer said.
Hillary Clinton’s director of battleground strategy, Michael Hall, similarly emphasizes the importance of NC in the race to 270. The Democratic nominee also makes trips to the state at least once a week, and either she or her running mate, Tim Kaine, will make an event appearance.
Although NC’s winner garners only fifteen Electoral College votes, the state gains considerable attention in the general election due to its above-average diversity. Democrats have only recently broken through years of Republican domination, and it is the closest state contest in this presidential cycle by a large margin.
Trump versus Clinton. Photo courtesy The Express Tribune