2008 United States presidential election in North Carolina

← 2004 November 4, 2008 2012 →
 
Nominee Barack Obama John McCain
Party Democratic Republican
Home state Illinois Arizona
Running mate Joe Biden Sarah Palin
Electoral vote 15 0
Popular vote 2,142,651 2,128,474
Percentage 49.70% 49.38%


President before election

George W. Bush
Republican

Elected President

Barack Obama
Democratic

The 2008 United States presidential election in North Carolina was part of the national event on November 4, 2008, throughout all 50 states and D.C. In North Carolina, voters chose 15 representatives, or electors, to the Electoral College, who voted for president and vice president.

North Carolina was won by Democratic nominee Barack Obama with a 0.32% margin of victory. Prior to the election, most news organizations considered the state as a toss-up or a swing state. Throughout the general election, the state was heavily targeted by both campaigns. A high turnout by African-American voters, bolstered by overwhelming support from younger voters were the major factors that helped deliver North Carolina's 15 electoral votes to Obama, making him the first Democratic presidential nominee to carry the state since 1976, when Jimmy Carter prevailed.

As of the 2020 presidential election, this is the last time the Democratic nominee carried North Carolina, which would vote Republican by narrow margins in the next three elections while still being considered a swing state. This is also the last time Jackson, Hyde, and Caswell counties would vote Democratic; and the last time Nash County voted for the losing candidate nationwide. Despite both states being won by the Democratic nominee, this is the most recent election where North Carolina voted to the right of Indiana, which is considered to be much more of a Republican stronghold.

Primaries

Campaign

Predictions

A total of 16 news organizations made state-by-state predictions of the election. Here are their last predictions before election day:

Source Ranking
D.C. Political Report[1] Likely R
Cook Political Report[2] Toss-up
The Takeaway[3] Toss-up
Electoral-vote.com[4] Lean D (flip)
Washington Post[5] Toss-up
Politico[6] Lean R
RealClearPolitics[7] Toss-up
FiveThirtyEight[5] Toss-up
CQ Politics[8] Toss-up
The New York Times[9] Toss-up
CNN[10] Toss-up
NPR[5] Lean R
MSNBC[5] Toss-up
Fox News[11] Toss-up
Associated Press[12] Toss-up
Rasmussen Reports[13] Toss-up

Polling

Main article: Statewide opinion polling for the 2008 United States presidential election: North Carolina

Early on, McCain won almost every single pre-election poll. However, on September 23, Rasmussen Reports showed Obama leading in a poll for the first time. He won the poll 49% to 47%. After that, polls showed the state being a complete toss-up, as both McCain and Obama were winning many polls and no candidate was taking a consistent lead in the state. Commentators attributed the drastic turnaround in the state to the influence of voter unhappiness about the financial crisis and the effectiveness of heavy advertising and organizing to get out the vote by the Obama campaign in the fall election. The final 3 polls found a tie with both candidate at 49%, which was accurate compared to the results.[14]

Fundraising

John McCain raised a total of $2,888,922 in the state. Barack Obama raised $8,569,866.[15]

Advertising and visits

Obama and his interest groups spent $15,178,674. McCain and his interest groups spent $7,137,289.[16] The Democratic ticket visited the state 12 times. The Republican ticket visited the state 8 times.[17]

Analysis

The winner was not certain even several days after the election, as thousands of provisional and absentee ballots were still being counted. However, when it became evident that McCain would need to win an improbable majority of these votes to overcome Obama's election night lead, the major news networks finally called the state's 15 electoral votes for Obama. North Carolina was the second-closest state in 2008; only in Missouri was the race closer. Situated in the increasingly Republican-dominated South, North Carolina was an anomaly by 2008. While still Democratic-leaning at the local and state level, the last Democratic presidential nominee to carry North Carolina up to that point was Jimmy Carter in 1976. Not even the Southern moderate Bill Clinton of Arkansas carried it in either of his elections (though he came very close in 1992), and in 2004, Democratic nominee John Kerry lost North Carolina by a 12-point margin despite his running mate John Edwards being a sitting Senator from the state.

Obama decided early on to campaign aggressively in the state. It paid off quickly; most polls from spring onward showed the race within single digits of difference between the candidates. He also dramatically outspent McCain in the state and had an extensive grassroots campaign of organizing to get out the vote. This was also one of the closest statewide contests of 2008, as Obama captured North Carolina just by 0.32% of the vote - a margin of only 14,177 votes out of 4.2 million statewide. Only in Missouri was the race closer, where McCain nipped Obama by less than 4,000 votes, a margin of 0.14%.

Republicans have traditionally done well in the western part of North Carolina which is a part of Appalachia, while Democrats are stronger in the urbanized east. When a Democrat wins in North Carolina, almost everything from Charlotte eastward is usually coated blue. Even when Democrats lose, they often still retain a number of counties in the industrial southeast (alongside Fayetteville), the African-American northeast, the fast-growing I-85 corridor in the Piedmont, and sometimes the western Appalachian region next to Tennessee. For example, a map of Bill Clinton's narrow 1992 loss in North Carolina shows him narrowly winning all these regions.[18]

Obama did not take the traditional Democratic path to victory. Instead, his main margins came from the cities, where he did particularly well throughout the country. While Obama won only 33 of North Carolina's 100 counties, these counties contained more than half of the state's population. Obama's victory margin came largely by running up huge majorities in the I-85 corridor, a developing megalopolis which is home to more than two-thirds of the state's population and casts almost 70% of the state's vote. The state's five largest counties--Mecklenburg (home to Charlotte) Wake (home to Raleigh), Guilford (home to Greensboro), Forsyth (home to Winston-Salem) and Durham (home to Durham)--are all located in this area, and Obama swept them all by 11 percentage points or more. He particularly attracted highly affluent and educated migrants from the Northeast, who traditionally tend to vote Democratic; as well as African Americans, Hispanics (an increasing population in the state), and college students, voting blocs who had overwhelmingly supported him during the course of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. In 1992, Bill Clinton was able to win only Durham County by this margin; he narrowly lost Forsyth and Mecklenburg (the latter was where Obama had his biggest margin in the state). Ultimately, Obama's combined margin of 350,000 votes in these counties was too much for McCain to overcome.

McCain did well in the Charlotte suburbs, Appalachian foothills, and mountain country; he carried all but four counties west of Winston-Salem. Aside from the I-85 corridor, Obama's results were mediocre in the traditional Democratic base. He lost badly in Appalachia, mirroring the difficulties he had throughout this region. Obama won only three counties in this region, one of which was Buncombe County, home to Asheville, the largest city in the region and a destination for retirees from the North. In the Fayetteville area, he did as well as Al Gore (who had lost North Carolina by double digits).

During the same election, Democrats picked up a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in North Carolina's 8th congressional district, where incumbent Republican Robin Hayes was ousted by Democrat Larry Kissell, a high school social studies teacher who almost toppled Hayes in 2006. Kissell received 55.38% of the vote while Hayes took in 44.62%, a 10.76-percent difference. Democrats held onto the Governor's Mansion; term-limited incumbent Democratic Governor Mike Easley was ineligible to seek a third term but Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue defeated Republican Pat McCrory, the incumbent mayor of Charlotte. Perdue received 50.23% of the vote while McCrory took 46.90%, with the remaining 2.86% going to Libertarian Michael Munger.

In a highly targeted U.S. Senate race, Democratic State Senator Kay Hagan defeated incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole by a wider-than-anticipated margin - by 8.47 points. Hagan received 52.65% while Dole took 44.18%. The race received widespread attention after the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) ran its notorious "Godless" ad that accused Hagan, a Sunday school teacher, of accepting money from atheists and accused her of being an atheist. The adverse reaction resulting from the ad was considered a major factor contributing to Dole's defeat. At the state level, Democrats increased their gains in the North Carolina General Assembly, picking up five seats in the North Carolina House of Representatives and one seat in the North Carolina Senate.

According to exit polls, more than 95% of African American voters cast ballots for Obama. This played a critical role in North Carolina, as 95% of the state's registered African-American voters turned out, with Obama carrying an unprecedented 100% of African-American women, as well as younger African-Americans aged 18 to 29, according to exit polling. Comparatively, the overall turnout of voters statewide was 69%.[19]

Results

2008 United States presidential election in North Carolina
Party Candidate Running mate Votes Percentage Electoral votes
Democratic Barack Obama Joe Biden 2,142,651 49.70% 15
Republican John McCain Sarah Palin 2,128,474 49.38% 0
Libertarian Bob Barr Wayne Allyn Root 25,722 0.60% 0
Write-ins Write-ins 12,292 0.29% 0
Independent Ralph Nader (write-in) Matt Gonzalez 1,454 0.03% 0
Green Cynthia McKinney (write-in) Rosa Clemente 158 0.00% 0
Others Others 38 0.00% 0
Totals 4,310,789 100.00% 15
Voter turnout (voting-age population) 63.0%

By county

County Barack Obama
Democratic
John McCain
Republican
Various candidates
Other parties
Margin Total
# % # % # % # %
Alamance 28,918 44.94% 34,859 54.17% 576 0.89% −5,941 −9.23% 64,353
Alexander 5,167 29.95% 11,790 68.33% 297 1.72% −6,623 −38.38% 17,254
Alleghany 2,021 38.40% 3,124 59.36% 118 2.24% −1,103 −20.96% 5,263
Anson 6,456 60.15% 4,207 39.20% 70 0.65% 2,249 20.95% 10,733
Ashe 4,872 37.28% 7,916 60.57% 281 2.15% −3,044 −23.29% 13,069
Avery 2,178 27.42% 5,681 71.52% 84 1.06% −3,503 −44.10% 7,943
Beaufort 9,454 41.09% 13,460 58.50% 96 0.41% −4,006 −17.41% 23,010
Bertie 6,365 65.20% 3,376 34.58% 22 0.22% 2,989 30.62% 9,763
Bladen 7,853 50.73% 7,532 48.66% 95 0.61% 321 2.07% 15,480
Brunswick 21,331 40.55% 30,753 58.46% 524 0.99% −9,422 −17.91% 52,608
Buncombe 69,716 56.32% 52,494 42.40% 1,585 1.28% 17,222 13.92% 123,795
Burke 14,901 39.80% 22,102 59.03% 440 1.17% −7,201 −19.23% 37,443
Cabarrus 31,546 40.45% 45,924 58.88% 524 0.67% −14,378 −18.43% 77,994
Caldwell 12,081 34.36% 22,526 64.08% 548 1.56% −10,445 −29.72% 35,155
Camden 1,597 33.13% 3,140 65.13% 84 1.74% −1,543 −32.00% 4,821
Carteret 11,130 32.17% 23,131 66.86% 336 0.97% −12,001 −34.69% 34,597
Caswell 5,545 51.05% 5,208 47.95% 109 1.00% 337 3.10% 10,862
Catawba 25,656 36.94% 42,993 61.90% 802 1.16% −17,337 −24.96% 69,451
Chatham 17,862 54.32% 14,668 44.61% 350 1.07% 3,194 9.71% 32,880
Cherokee 3,785 30.07% 8,643 68.67% 158 1.26% −4,858 −38.60% 12,586
Chowan 3,688 49.09% 3,773 50.23% 51 0.68% −85 −1.14% 7,512
Clay 1,734 31.28% 3,707 66.88% 102 1.82% −1,973 −35.60% 5,543
Cleveland 17,363 39.61% 26,078 59.49% 394 0.90% −8,715 −19.88% 43,835
Columbus 11,076 45.61% 12,994 53.51% 212 0.88% −1,918 −7.90% 24,282
Craven 19,352 43.39% 24,901 55.83% 345 0.78% −5,549 −12.44% 44,598
Cumberland 74,693 58.55% 52,151 40.88% 731 0.57% 22,542 17.67% 127,575
Currituck 3,737 33.66% 7,234 65.16% 131 1.18% −3,497 −31.50% 11,102
Dare 8,074 44.74% 9,745 53.99% 229 1.27% −1,671 −9.25% 18,048
Davidson 22,433 32.71% 45,419 66.23% 729 1.06% −22,986 −33.52% 68,581
Davie 6,178 30.33% 13,981 68.64% 209 1.03% −7,803 −38.31% 20,368
Duplin 8,958 45.01% 10,834 54.43% 112 0.56% −1,876 −9.42% 19,904
Durham 103,456 75.57% 32,353 23.63% 1,088 0.80% 71,103 51.94% 136,897
Edgecombe 17,403 67.12% 8,445 32.57% 82 0.31% 8,958 34.55% 25,930
Forsyth 91,085 54.83% 73,674 44.35% 1,374 0.82% 17,411 10.48% 166,133
Franklin 13,085 49.12% 13,273 49.83% 281 1.05% −188 −0.71% 26,639
Gaston 31,384 37.18% 52,507 62.21% 511 0.61% −21,123 −25.03% 84,402
Gates 2,830 52.21% 2,547 46.99% 43 0.80% 283 5.22% 5,420
Graham 1,265 30.33% 2,824 67.71% 82 1.96% −1,559 −37.38% 4,171
Granville 13,074 52.88% 11,447 46.30% 204 0.82% 1,627 6.58% 24,725
Greene 3,796 46.85% 4,272 52.72% 35 0.43% −476 −5.87% 8,103
Guilford 142,101 58.78% 97,718 40.42% 1,952 0.80% 44,383 18.36% 241,771
Halifax 16,047 63.96% 8,961 35.71% 83 0.33% 7,086 28.25% 25,091
Harnett 16,785 41.24% 23,579 57.93% 341 0.83% −6,794 −16.69% 40,705
Haywood 12,730 45.36% 14,910 53.12% 427 1.52% −2,180 −7.76% 28,067
Henderson 20,082 38.91% 30,930 59.93% 602 1.16% −10,848 −21.02% 51,614
Hertford 7,513 70.54% 3,089 29.00% 48 0.46% 4,424 41.54% 10,650
Hoke 9,227 59.05% 6,293 40.27% 107 0.68% 2,934 18.78% 15,627
Hyde 1,241 50.26% 1,212 49.09% 16 0.65% 29 1.17% 2,469
Iredell 27,318 37.34% 45,148 61.71% 696 0.95% −17,830 −24.37% 73,162
Jackson 8,766 51.97% 7,854 46.57% 246 1.46% 912 5.40% 16,866
Johnston 26,795 37.73% 43,622 61.42% 600 0.85% −16,827 −23.69% 71,017
Jones 2,378 45.49% 2,817 53.89% 32 0.62% −439 −8.40% 5,227
Lee 10,784 45.33% 12,775 53.70% 229 0.97% −1,991 −8.37% 23,788
Lenoir 13,378 49.74% 13,401 49.82% 118 0.44% −23 −0.08% 26,897
Lincoln 11,713 32.72% 23,631 66.01% 454 1.27% −11,918 −33.29% 35,798
Macon 6,620 38.40% 10,317 59.85% 301 1.75% −3,697 −21.45% 17,238
Madison 5,026 48.42% 5,192 50.02% 161 1.56% −166 −1.60% 10,379
Martin 6,539 52.14% 5,957 47.50% 45 0.36% 582 4.64% 12,541
McDowell 6,571 35.74% 11,534 62.73% 281 1.53% −4,963 −26.99% 18,386
Mecklenburg 253,958 61.82% 153,848 37.45% 3,011 0.73% 100,110 24.37% 410,817
Mitchell 2,238 28.52% 5,499 70.09% 109 1.39% −3,261 −41.57% 7,846
Montgomery 4,926 43.94% 6,155 54.91% 129 1.15% −1,229 −10.97% 11,210
Moore 17,624 38.88% 27,314 60.26% 390 0.86% −9,690 −21.38% 45,328
Nash 23,099 49.02% 23,728 50.36% 291 0.62% −629 −1.34% 47,118
New Hanover 49,145 48.82% 50,544 50.21% 976 0.97% −1,399 −1.39% 100,665
Northampton 6,903 65.01% 3,671 34.57% 44 0.42% 3,232 30.44% 10,618
Onslow 19,499 38.84% 30,278 60.31% 426 0.85% −10,779 −21.47% 50,203
Orange 53,806 71.83% 20,266 27.05% 838 1.12% 33,540 44.78% 74,910
Pamlico 2,838 42.28% 3,823 56.96% 51 0.76% −985 −14.68% 6,712
Pasquotank 10,272 56.50% 7,778 42.78% 130 0.72% 2,494 13.72% 18,180
Pender 9,907 41.72% 13,618 57.34% 224 0.94% −3,711 −15.62% 23,749
Perquimans 2,772 42.64% 3,678 56.58% 51 0.78% −906 −13.94% 6,501
Person 8,446 45.33% 10,030 53.83% 156 0.84% −1,584 −8.50% 18,632
Pitt 40,501 54.08% 33,927 45.31% 456 0.61% 6,574 8.77% 74,884
Polk 4,396 41.62% 5,990 56.71% 176 1.67% −1,594 −15.09% 10,562
Randolph 16,414 28.23% 40,998 70.51% 735 1.26% −24,584 −42.28% 58,147
Richmond 9,713 50.26% 9,424 48.76% 190 0.98% 289 1.50% 19,327
Robeson 23,058 56.47% 17,433 42.69% 343 0.84% 5,625 13.78% 40,834
Rockingham 17,255 41.47% 23,899 57.43% 458 1.10% −6,644 −15.96% 41,612
Rowan 23,391 38.00% 37,451 60.84% 718 1.16% −14,060 −22.84% 61,560
Rutherford 9,641 33.57% 18,769 65.35% 310 1.08% −9,128 −31.78% 28,720
Sampson 11,836 45.46% 14,038 53.91% 164 0.63% −2,202 −8.45% 26,038
Scotland 8,151 57.33% 6,005 42.24% 61 0.43% 2,146 15.09% 14,217
Stanly 8,878 31.14% 19,329 67.81% 299 1.05% −10,451 −36.67% 28,506
Stokes 6,875 31.62% 14,488 66.63% 380 1.75% −7,613 −35.01% 21,743
Surry 10,475 35.48% 18,730 63.44% 320 1.08% −8,255 −27.96% 29,525
Swain 2,806 48.40% 2,900 50.02% 92 1.58% −94 −1.62% 5,798
Transylvania 7,275 43.02% 9,401 55.60% 233 1.38% −2,126 −12.58% 16,909
Tyrrell 933 48.85% 960 50.26% 17 0.99% −27 −1.41% 1,910
Union 31,189 36.23% 54,123 62.87% 777 0.90% −22,934 −26.64% 86,089
Vance 13,166 63.08% 7,606 36.44% 99 0.48% 5,560 26.64% 20,871
Wake 250,891 56.73% 187,001 42.28% 4,353 0.99% 63,890 14.45% 442,245
Warren 7,086 69.50% 3,063 30.04% 46 0.46% 4,023 39.46% 10,195
Washington 3,748 58.07% 2,670 41.37% 36 0.54% 1,078 16.70% 6,454
Watauga 14,558 51.31% 13,344 47.03% 470 1.66% 1,214 4.28% 28,372
Wayne 22,671 45.45% 26,952 54.03% 259 0.52% −4,281 −8.58% 49,882
Wilkes 8,934 30.06% 20,288 68.25% 502 1.69% −11,354 −38.19% 29,724
Wilson 19,652 52.84% 17,375 46.72% 164 0.44% 2,277 6.12% 37,191
Yadkin 4,527 26.40% 12,409 72.37% 211 1.23% −7,882 −45.97% 17,147
Yancey 4,486 46.17% 5,045 51.92% 186 1.91% −559 −5.75% 9,717
Totals 2,142,651 49.70% 2,128,474 49.38% 39,664 0.92% 14,177 0.32% 4,310,789
County Flips:

Counties that flipped from Republican to Democratic

By congressional district

Despite Barack Obama winning North Carolina, John McCain carried seven of the state's 13 congressional districts, including two districts represented by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

District McCain Obama Representative
1st 37.11% 62.44% G. K. Butterfield
2nd 47.29% 51.91% Bob Etheridge
3rd 61.37% 37.83% Walter B. Jones Jr.
4th 36.32% 62.70% David Price
5th 60.83% 37.91% Virginia Foxx
6th 62.76% 36.20% Howard Coble
7th 52.35% 46.79% Mike McIntyre
8th 46.68% 52.56% Robin Hayes (110th Congress)
Larry Kissell (111th Congress)
9th 54.46% 44.75% Sue Myrick
10th 63.11% 35.74% Patrick McHenry
11th 52.12% 46.50% Heath Shuler
12th 28.93% 70.42% Mel Watt
13th 40.38% 58.70% Brad Miller

Electors

Main article: List of 2008 United States presidential electors

Technically the voters of North Carolina cast their ballots for electors: representatives to the Electoral College. North Carolina is allocated 15 electors because it has 13 congressional districts and 2 senators. All candidates who appear on the ballot or qualify to receive write-in votes must submit a list of 15 electors, who pledge to vote for their candidate and their running mate. Whoever wins the majority of votes in the state is awarded all 15 electoral votes. Their chosen electors then vote for president and vice president. Although electors are pledged to their candidate and running mate, they are not obligated to vote for them.[20] An elector who votes for someone other than their candidate is known as a faithless elector.

The electors of each state and the District of Columbia met on December 15, 2008, to cast their votes for president and vice president. The Electoral College itself never meets as one body. Instead the electors from each state and the District of Columbia met in their respective capitols.

The following were the members of the Electoral College from the state. All 15 were pledged to Barack Obama and Joe Biden:[21]

  1. Janice Cole
  2. Louise Sewell
  3. Virginia Tillett
  4. Linda Gunter
  5. Timothy Futrelle
  6. Wayne Abraham
  7. Armin Ancis
  8. Wendy Wood
  9. Michael Cognac
  10. Dan DeHart
  11. Harley Caldwell
  12. Samuel Spencer
  13. Patricia Hawkins
  14. Sid Crawford
  15. Kara Hollingsworth

References

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  2. ^ "Presidential". May 5, 2015. Archived from the original on May 5, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
  3. ^ "Vote 2008 - The Takeaway - Track the Electoral College vote predictions". April 22, 2009. Archived from the original on April 22, 2009. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
  4. ^ "Electoral-vote.com: President, Senate, House Updated Daily". electoral-vote.com. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d Based on Takeaway
  6. ^ "POLITICO's 2008 Swing State Map - POLITICO.com". www.politico.com. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  7. ^ "RealClearPolitics - Electoral Map". Archived from the original on June 5, 2008.
  8. ^ "CQ Presidential Election Maps, 2008". CQ Politics. Archived from the original on June 14, 2009. Retrieved December 20, 2009.
  9. ^ Nagourney, Adam; Zeleny, Jeff; Carter, Shan (November 4, 2008). "The Electoral Map: Key States". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  10. ^ "October – 2008 – CNN Political Ticker - CNN.com Blogs". CNN. October 31, 2008. Archived from the original on June 19, 2010. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  11. ^ "Winning The Electoral College". Fox News. April 27, 2010.
  12. ^ "roadto270". hosted.ap.org. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  13. ^ "Election 2008: Electoral College Update - Rasmussen Reports". www.rasmussenreports.com. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  14. ^ Election 2008 Polls - Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections
  15. ^ "Presidential Campaign Finance". Archived from the original on March 24, 2009. Retrieved August 18, 2009.
  16. ^ "Map: Campaign Ad Spending - Election Center 2008 from CNN.com". CNN. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  17. ^ "Map: Campaign Candidate Visits - Election Center 2008 from CNN.com". CNN. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  18. ^ "Election Results 2008". New York Times. Archived from the original on November 3, 2004. Retrieved May 12, 2009.
  19. ^ "How Black Democrats won North Carolina and the Election: Massive Turnout, Week of November 13–19, 2008". The Wilmington Journal. November 24, 2008.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ "Electoral College". California Secretary of State. Archived from the original on October 30, 2008. Retrieved November 1, 2008.
  21. ^ North Carolina Certificate of Ascertainment, page 1 of 3.. National Archives and Records Administration.