Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The State of the Race: Counting Delegates in the North Carolina Primary

After yesterday's look at the playing field for the upcoming primary in Indiana, the focus now shifts toward the Tar Heel state. North Carolina also holds a primary on May 6 and things in the Democratic race are heating up there as they are in Indiana. Polls show Obama with a pretty good lead over Clinton in the state and the Real Clear Politics average (see link) has only dropped slightly following Clinton's victory in Pennsylvania last week (15. 5 points before to 12.6 points now). In the interim the North Carolina GOP has publicized and aired a TV ad featuring both Obama and his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, in an attack on the two main Democrats vying for the state's Democratic gubernatorial nomination (both of whom have endorsed Obama). Will those numbers continue to trend downward for Obama with Clinton picking up the endorsement of Democratic governor, Mike Easley today.

The primary in North Carolina is a modified, open primary that allows independents to vote but prohibits Republicans from participating. There is evidence of party switching among registered Republicans in the lead up to the primary, but with a competitive gubernatorial primary on the GOP side, one has to wonder whether those are sincere switches or Republicans seeking to throw a monkeywrench in the Democratic contest. It seems less likely that these are Rush Limbaugh voters with the presence of a GOP primary for governor because the Republicans in the state must be energized to take back the governor's mansion after 16 years out of it.

At stake are 77 delegates allocated to the winner of each of the state's 13 congressional districts and another 38 based on the statewide results (source: The Green Papers). The number of congressional district delegates varies from a low of 4 in more Republican districts (6 of the 13 districts are held by Republicans) to a high of nine in the more heavily Democratic districts. The split in which candidate gets what number of delegates from a district depends on the following rules:

The delegate distributions:
  • Those districts with four delegates will split two to two (delegates to each candidate) unless one candidate clears 62.5% of the vote in that district for a three to one advantage.
  • The districts with five delegates will split three to two in favor of the winner unless the winner of the district surpasses 70% of the vote for a four to one edge.
  • The districts with six delegates will split the delegates evenly unless the winning candidate in such a district garners more than 58.33% of the vote for a four to two lead. 75% would be necessary to win a five to one delegate advantage coming out of a six delegate district.
  • The districts with seven delegates will divide those delegates 4 to 3, in favor of the winner, unless the winner receives more than 64.29% of the vote in that district. The winner would take home a five to two delegate advantage from that district in that case.
  • The district with nine delegates will split those delegates 5 to 4 unless the winner surpasses 61% of the vote in the district, giving the winner a six to three edge. 72% of the vote is necessary to give the winner a 7 to 2 lead.
How does the race look on the district level? With the race shifting south, the focus shifts almost exclusively to the percentage of the district that is black. North Carolina is not on par with South Carolina (where Obama has already won) in terms of its concentration of African American, but it is nearly equivalent to another neighboring state, Virginia (another state Obama won), in that regard.

1st District (Northeast corner, bordering Virginia/6 delegates): This Democratic-controlled district is 50% African American and contains the East Carolina University community. Both bode well for Obama despite this being a rural and agricultural district as does the endorsement of Rep. G.K. Butterfield.
The Score: Clinton-2, Obama-4

2nd District (East Central, surrounding the Raleigh area/6 delegates): This is another of the Democratic districts in the Tar Heel state. It stretches from south of the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area and around the to the east northeast of the state capital. The 2nd is 30% black and has all or part of several of the military bases in the state. Obama could flirt with the 58% barrier here, but this one is likely a split.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-3

3rd District (Coastal North and Outer Banks/4 delegates): The 3rd has been represented by Republican, Walter Jones for the past seven terms and has a far smaller black population than the previous two districts. The third also has a military presence and could be an area where Clinton could find some support.
The Score: Clinton-2, Obama-2

4th District (Research Triangle Park area, Durham, Chapel Hill/9 delegates): The 4th is the most heavily Democratic district in the state, is very young (only 8% over 65) and holds Research Triangle Park, the University of North Carolina and Duke University. It is also one-fifth African American. In other words, the state's big delegate prize favors Obama. But by how much? The endorsement of Rep. David Price won't hurt Obama either.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-6

5th District (Northwest, bordering Virginia/5 delegates): This Republican district stretches westward into the Appalachian Mountains from Winston-Salem and is only 7% black. It does have the area in and around Appalachian State University, but looks to favor Clinton. She won the bordering area in Virginia during Obama's convincing win there in mid-February.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-2

6th District (Piedmont, West of RTP/5 delegates): Similar to the 5th, the 6th is safely Republican and has a black population that only comprises a tenth of the total population. The good news for Clinton is that it is another district with 5 delegates at stake, so the delegate distribution won't be even. She could do well here but won't pass 70% to get anything more than a one delegate advantage out of it.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-2

7th District (Coastal Southeast, Wilmington/6 delegates): A solid coalition of African Americans and blue collar workers has kept Democratic congressman, Mike McIntyre safely in office since 1996. Those groups are at odds if this district trends the way the rest of the nation has in the states that have held delegate selection events thus far.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-3

8th District (South Piedmont, East of Charlotte/5 delegates): The 8th is one of just 15 districts that CQ rates as "No Clear Favorite" in the congressional race that will take place this fall. What does that mean for this Democratic presidential primary, though? Three in ten in the district are black and nearly a third have a blue collar background. As in the 7th, and nationwide for that matter, those groups are at odds. The tiebreaker could come from the exurban Charlotte population. Obama has done well in and around urban centers and that could give him enough support to manage a win and the one delegate advantage coming out of this five delegate district.
The Score: Clinton-2, Obama-3

9th District (South Piedmont, South and West of Charlotte/6 delegates): The ninth is my hometown district and has been represented by Republican and former-Charlotte mayor, Sue Myrick, for so long that calling her the former Charlotte mayor is outdated. This is a district that cedes much of the area's African American populace to the neighboring, majority-minority 12th district. The result is a district that is less black and more blue collar among the Democratic electorate. There is some exurban Charlotte development in the Gastonia area, but not enough to offset Clinton's strength.
The Score: Clinton-4, Obama-2

10th District (Western, foothills/5 delegates): Like the 9th, the 10th district is less than a tenth black and holds a significant number of blue collar workers. It should grant Clinton a comfortable margin, but not enough to emerge with more than a one delegate advantage.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-2

11th District (Western tip of the state, Asheville/6 delegates): This westernmost district is only 5% black and nearly a third blue collar, but the Asheville area offsets those Clinton advantages with a highly educated population.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-3

12th District (I-85 district, running from Charlotte to Greensboro/7 delegates): The 12th is the most controversial district in the state because it is always the one challenged in courts after the post-census redrawing of the lines. If ever Elbridge Gerry had a salamander, this would have been it. Snaking along I-85 from Gastonia through Charlotte to the Winston-Salem and Greenboro areas, the 12th has a black population approaching 50%. That will comprise a significant portion of the Democratic primary electorate. Mel Watt, the district's representative, has endorsed Obama as well.
The Score: Clinton-2, Obama-5

13th District (Northern Piedmont, bordering Virginia/7 delegates): This district runs along the border area of Virginia where Obama did well in his victory there. It also includes areas of Raleigh and Greensboro that cobble together a significant white collar population and a black community that makes up over one quarter of the district's population. This district could go for Obama but not by as much as in the 12th.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-4

Total Score: Clinton-36, Obama-41

A five delegate advantage in the districts combined with a ten point win (21 of the 38 statewide delegates) would give Obama a nine delegate advantage overall in North Carolina. If the projections from Indiana and North Carolina hold, then both candidates would emerged with one win apiece on May 6. No, that doesn't account for the expectations game. Obama is "supposed" to win North Carolina and the 10 point margin used above is the line he probably needs to clear in order for that to remain a "win" for him in the state. That scenario pushes the game into the next week when West Virginia (Clinton territory) holds its primary.

Recent Posts:
The State of the Race: Counting Delegates in the Indiana Primary

The Electoral College Maps (4/23/08)

Back to the Original "Too Early" Sanction


Robert said...

The late endorsement of Clinton by Easley is probably not going to help her near as much as it would have if she would have received it earlier. I don't see how he can mobilize the party machinery at this late date. I also don't know how many late deciders there are in the state.

Josh Putnam said...

No, I'm still perplexed by the timing of Easley's decision. Obama just has some real advantages district to district in NC. It would definitely have taken some time to mobilize against him there.