For days after the election, as state after state was shaded red or blue for President on maps and magic screens, Georgia and North Carolina remained stubbornly blank.
There was little doubt North Carolina would go red, albeit narrowly. Georgia turned blue, even more narrowly: Biden holds a 0.3% lead there, ahead some 14,000 votes out of 5 million cast.
Just before the election, a leading Democratic strategist here told me North Carolina was becoming a blue state. We are, he said, just behind Virginia and just ahead of Georgia on that path.
Why did Georgia leap ahead? Here are some thoughts and theories, plus some numbers.
Warning: This may be a trigger for readers with math anxiety. Bear with me.
Stacy Abrams: 800,000
800,000 is the number of new voters that Abrams, her group Fair Fight and allies are credited with registering in Georgia since 2016. Many of them apparently turned out this year.
The 800,000 amounts to 16% of Georgia’s total vote this month.
As our reluctantly outgoing President would say, that’s huge.
Abrams began the effort in 2012. One observer called it “a very methodical, step-by-step, year-by-year plan that had at its core expanding voting power in numbers of people of color in general and African-Americans in particular.”
NC Democrats: Minus 100,000
Compare Georgia’s registration numbers to North Carolina. Since 2016, the number of registered Democrats here has gone down, from 2.7 million to 2.6 million now.
The number of registered Republicans has gone up, from 2.1 million to over 2.2 million.
The total number of registered voters here is up, from 6.9 million in 2016 to 7.3 million today. The number of unaffiliated voters is growing fast.
Maybe North Carolina Democrats should take a lesson from Stacy Abrams.
15 vs 16
North Carolina got cheated on Electoral Votes this year. By Georgia.
We have 15 EVs; Georgia has 16.
But we had 5.5 million voters. Georgia had just 5 million.
Democrats, however, are probably OK with this. It’s one more Electoral Vote for President-elect Biden.
A Biden First
There’s karma in Biden winning Georgia.
Long, long ago, in a Georgia far, far away, a peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter ran for President. Everybody laughed. People in Georgia laughed. The Atlanta Constitution headline was “Jimmy Carter is Running for What?”
No big-name Democrats endorsed Carter at first. No U.S. Senators. Except one.
Joe Biden, in his first term from Delaware, was the first Senator to endorse Carter. Biden chaired Carter’s national steering committee. He campaigned for Carter in dozens of states.
Biden was just 33 years old. He joked that he was too young to run for President himself. Now he’ll be our oldest President.
North Carolina Ain’t Georgia.
Let us count the ways.
Some 57% of Georgian’s live in the Metro Atlanta area. That’s like if Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville and Wilmington all picked up and moved to Charlotte.
Georgia has more Black voters, about 30% of the electorate. Blacks are about 20% of North Carolina’s electorate.
Georgia Democrats have the “30-30 Rule.” To win, they need Black turnout at 30% of the total vote, and they need to win 30% of white votes. Democrats in North Carolina need to win some 38% of white voters.
And We’re Not Virginia
Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy, has turned true blue. But Virginia is smaller, 4.5 million votes this year compared to North Carolina’s 5.5 million.
And Northern Virginia, the heavily Democratic DC suburbs, now overwhelms the rest of the commonwealth.
How Close Is North Carolina?
As in 2008 and 2012, North Carolina was one of the closest states in the Presidential race. This year, we were one of the six closest.
The margin here was just over 70,000 votes or 1.3%. Florida had about the same margin for Trump.
Georgia and Arizona (karma again, John McCain’s state) were the closest states, both about 0.3% (pending any recount) for Biden.
Other close states were Wisconsin (0.7%) and Pennsylvania (1%), both for Biden.
Cal Cunningham’s Numbers
If Cal Cunningham had won the same number of votes that President-elect Biden won in North Carolina, he would have won the U.S. Senate race.
Biden won 2.68 million votes here; Senator Thom Tillis won 2.66 million. But Cunningham won only 2.57 million. Cunningham ran over 115,000 votes behind Biden. Tillis ran behind President Trump, but by 92,000 votes, just enough to win.
Clearly, Tillis and Cunningham both turned off voters in their own parties. Tillis may have been seen as not loyal enough to Trump. Cunningham proved that the worst wounds in politics are self-inflicted.
The Senate race also showed that attack ads work when they go unanswered. Cunningham didn’t or couldn’t answer ads attacking him for his affair.
Had Cunningham won, the U.S. Senate would be tied today, 49 Democrats and 49 Republicans. Democrats would need to win only one Georgia runoff to control the Senate with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the chair.
The Bottom Line
To sum up, North Carolina remains an evenly divided state.
We’ve got deep-red parts and deep-blue parts. Together, we’re deep purple.
It’s fitting that a basketball-mad state likely will have jump-ball, last-second, nail-biter elections for years to come.