By Yaël Ossowski | Watchdog.org
CHARLOTTE — The whole point of a Democratic Convention in North Carolina was to support President Barack Obama‘s effort to capture the state’s critical 15 electoral votes. But a funny thing happened on the way to Charlotte: the popular local Democrats who might show up at the president’s side — lending him their credibility — failed to show up.
Some observers wonder if that will depress the post-convention bump in the polls the president’s campaign might expect.
“It depends on how the Democrats are able to use the interest and excitement surrounding the convention,” said Martha Kropf, associate professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “Conventions are always going to give people a little more excitement because it’s a show, if you like that sort of thing, That will give Democrats a small convention bump.”
But Obama will struggle to find popular statewide wingmen and women.
Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue chose not to run for re-election this fall, and holds only a 30 perent approval rating, according to the latest survey by Public Policy Polling, based in Raleigh. Perdue has struggled to overcome the efforts of the Republican-led Legislature in the state capital, bringing her to the point of vetoing the budget in 2011.
Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan isn’t doing much better. Elected along with Obama in the Class of 2008, she enjoys — if that’s the word — a very modest 38 percent approval rating, according to the same poll. The only memorable achievement of Hagan’s tenure: asking the Environmental Protection Agency to waive corn-based ethanol production requirements, according to the Raleigh News & Observer, a move that paired her briefly with several Republican colleagues.
Both are scheduled to speak at the DNC but, critically, have not planned larger campaign events around the state with Obama.
There is one popular Democrat, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, once-rumored to be contemplating a bid for governor in the heat of the primaries last spring. He has scheduled many events around the Queen City, and will also be speaking to the crowd at the Time Warner Cable Area in Uptown Charlotte.
Unlike Perdue, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, the Democratic candidate for governor, is still a relative unknown. He’s trailing Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory, the former Charlotte mayor who lost his bid for the governor’s mansion by a razor-thin margin in 2008.
“If they’re able to mobilize the base, the Democratic voters, no matter who the Democrat is, I think it would help Walter Dalton. It is pretty clear, however, that since McCrory ran such a close race in 2008, he has a high probability of winning, but anything can happen,” said Kropf.
“Here in North Carolina, the Democrats have to win African-American voters if they want Barack Obama to win, and it’s the same for Walter Dalton.”
McCrory has held a consistent lead in the polls over Dalton, and is widely expected to cruise to victory in the fall, which may hurt the chance of Democratic hopefuls, including the incumbent president.
The last PPP poll gives McCrory 47 percent of the vote over Dalton’s 40 percent, conducted from June 7-10 with 810 registered voters.
“A lot of people in this area really like McCrory because he was seen as a moderate, reasonable mayor. Somone who was very popular with a lot of different groups, including the African-American community, which is a key Democratic constituency,” said Kropf.
Walter Dalton’s office did not respond to Watchdog.org’s request for comment.
Seizing on the moment, McCrory has already taken the Democrats to task for picking Charlotte as the host city for their convention.
“Charlotte already has a good image, ranging from NASCAR to its role as a major banking center,” McCrory told the National Review on Sept. 2. “So it is ironic that a party that loves to bash bankers is showing up here.”
He also managed to throw in a jab at the hightened security being employed all around the city.
“The security is keeping everybody away. They wouldn’t even let me in this building — which is outside the security zone — until a local cop recognized me,” said McCrory. “Welcome to our Gitmo.”
Yaël Ossowski is Florida Bureau Chief for Watchdog.org. Email him at [email protected]
— Yaël (@YaelOss) September 4, 2012