The Two Electorates In North Carolina

If you’ve internalized the “two electorates” analysis so convincingly presented in Sasha Issenberg’s important new piece at TNR, or if I’ve made any impression on you in many months of ranting on the subject, a new report on North Carolina from Nate Cohn at The Upshot is of particular interest:

North Carolina might be the state where Democrats suffer the most from low midterm turnout. The state is divided between older, culturally Southern and conservative voters, and younger, more diverse and more liberal voters, especially around the Research Triangle and Charlotte

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In presidential elections, those two groups fight nearly to a draw. In midterm elections, when older voters turn out at much higher rates than younger ones, the Republicans have a big advantage….

The gap between North Carolina’s younger (under 30) and older voters (over 65) is among the most pronounced in the country. In 2012, North Carolina’s seniors voted for Mitt Romney by 29 points, more than twice his 12-point advantage nationally among older voters, according to exit polls. By contrast, President Obama won North Carolina’s young voters by a 35-point margin, better than the 24-point margin he won nationally. This 64-point gap between young and old North Carolinians was nearly twice as large as it was nationally. Lower youth turnout, then, is twice as damaging to Democrats in North Carolina than it is nationally.

This is not good news for Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. But at least her campaign knows what it has to do, and at least she’s got the backing of a DSCC that is focused on the midterm falloff problem as the key to 2014.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.