North Carolina and Indiana chose different winners in the Democratic primary elections yesterday, but the patterns of voting for Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton were the same.
Rural and exurban communities supported Clinton in both states. Urban voters backed Obama.
Senator Obama won North Carolina's primary with 56% of the vote, over Clinton's 41.5%. Despite an overwhelming victory for the Illinois senator statewide — and contrary to the exit polls — Sen. Clinton narrowly defeated Obama in North Carolina's rural and exurban communities. Obama won the state's urban counties two to one.
The pattern was similar in Indiana. Clinton won nearly 62 percent of the rural and exurban vote there. Obama won 54.4 percent of the vote in Indiana's urban counties.
Exit polls in both states failed to predict the voting outcomes. The exit polls in North Carolina reported that Obama won rural voters 52-45%. In rural counties, as defined by the U.S. Census, however, Clinton won just over 50 percent of the Tar Heel vote. Obama won 46% of the vote in rural North Carolina.
The exit polls in Indiana reported that Clinton won 68 percent of the rural vote, far above her actually tally of 61.6 percent.
Locally, the vote often wasn't close in North Carolina communities. For example, Obama won more than 80 percent of the vote in hip Orange County, home to Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina.
Clinton, meanwhile, won by huge margins in the western mountains, polling more than 70 percent of the vote in Swain, Wilkes, Yancey, McDowell, and Surry Counties. She lost two mountain counties: Buncombe (Asheville) and Watauga, home of Appalachian State University.
On the day of the Indiana primary, Sen. Barack Obama chows down on some scrambled eggs at a diner in Greenwood.
Senator Obama's wide margin of victory came from North Carolina's large cities and a swath of the state reaching from the Greensboro metro area in the west to the counties near the coast. Both Clinton and Obama had campaigned on the North Carolina coast last week. Obama won in Wilmington and in eight more counties along the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. “I didn’t get into this race to run against Sen. Clinton," Obama told a crowd at UNC-Wilmington's Trask Coliseum. "I ran to run against the economy, substandard housing, a war we never should have fought.”
Campaigning in Jacksonville (Carteret County), Hillary Clinton exhorted the audience, “Ask yourself who would be best for your family, take care of your needs and turn the economy around. If you think I can provide a clean energy future, make college affordable, end the war in Iraq and win the war in Afghanistan, then work for me until the polls close on May 6.” Sen. Clinton won in Carteret and six more of North Carolina's easternmost coastal counties.
At the local level, the North Carolina primary was, in fact, a runaway election — for one candidate or the other. Nearly two-thirds of the yesterday's voters lived in communities where the contest between the two candidates was decided by more than 20 percentage points.
Most of the voters living in landslide counties voted for Obama. North Carolina's cities voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic frontrunner.
Obama's victory shouldn't be interpreted as a sign that North Carolina could become a Democratic state in November, according to political reporter Rob Christensen. "Until proven otherwise, North Carolina remains a red state in national politics," Christensen wrote. "The last time the state went Democratic was 1976, when Jimmy Carter, a son of the South, was elected in the post-Watergate backlash. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, will likely be favored over whomever emerges as the Democratic nominee. While the attention was focused on the Democrats, McCain quietly picked up $1 million in the state at fundraisers in Charlotte and Greensboro this week."
According to exit polls, only 45 percent of those North Carolinians who voted for Clinton said they would vote for Obama in the fall.
Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh introduced Hillary Clinton at Indiana Tech University, Ft. Wayne, May 4
The vote in Indiana was divided, but not so starkly as in North Carolina. Four in ten voters in Indiana lived in landslide counties.
In both states, voter turnout was considerably higher in landslide Obama counties. The Illinois senator has consistently banked on higher turnout in his strong counties.
In Indiana, exit polls revealed a deep racial divide among primary voters. Carolyn Lockheed of the San Francisco Chronicle cited one poll showing "Clinton wins whites 61% to 39%; Obama wins African Americans 92% to 8%."
With Indiana's open primary, Independent and Republican voters participated in the competitive Democratic race. According to the Howey-Gauge Poll, self-identified Republicans favored Clinton over Obama 50 to 44 percent; independents preferred Obama to Clinton: 54-38 percent. Gauge Market Research pollster Holly Davis predicted, going into Tuesday's election, "The Democratic primary is going to be decided by non-Democrats."