The Washington Post

In North Carolina, an obsession with the number 14,000

If Mitt Romney wins in North Carolina Tuesday, his victory will be sponsored by the number 14,000. Actually, 14,177 to be exact, says Clair Mahoney, president of the Charlotte/ Mecklenburg Republican Women. She should know, it’s a number she’s been obsessing over for years.

In 2008, Obama won Mecklenburg County--powered by the Democratic stronghold of Charlotte—and this reliably red state turned blue for the first time in more than 30 years.

It was a tipping point, Mahoney says. “They did it by out registering us” And at the Romney headquarters in Charlotte, volunteers said this year is different. That 14,177 number became “personal, in a positive shift,” Mahoney says, as “regular citizens who didn’t live and breathe politics lost jobs, and now they are finally looking up and want to participate.”

Obama began Election Day 2008 with a 305,000 vote advantage because of early voting. 
This year, with over 2.7 million early votes cast, Republicans make up 31.4 percent of total early voters (approximately 860,000) in person and by mail and Democrats make up 47.7 (1.3 million), said Jonathan Kappler, research director for the non-partisan North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation.

According to Rachel Adams spokesperson for the Romney campaign in North Carolina, 42,000 fewer Democrats in North Carolina voted early this year than 2008, compared to 89,000 more Republicans who voted early. “The math isn’t adding up for Democrats in North Carolina,” Adams says. “We have gained 132,395 votes through 17 days of early voting and are confident we will maintain this momentum on Election Day.” 

The numbers are  embedded in the Democratic psyche as well. Nearly 4,500 people crowded a hangar in Charlotte for a rally with first lady Michelle Obama. “In 2008 when we elected Barack Obama with just over 14,000 votes, we shocked the world,” said Charlotte Mayor Anthony Fox as a nearby Forward banner waved in the breeze. “We have a chance to make history once again.”

After the crowd cheered singer Mariah Carey, the first lady took the stage and said this year, the vote margins were tight, tight. “Own it. Believe it. This election is going to be closer than the last one, and it's going to come down to a few key battleground states like North Carolina,” Michelle Obama said. “He won by 14,000 votes last time. That’s five votes here, or 40 votes there.” She urged those who had early voted to help get others out to the polls.

At the Romney campaign, a steady stream of volunteers were in and out, picking up signs, while others manned the phones.  Mahoney pointed to the enthusiasm of people like Liz Capitano, who came six weeks ago to pick up a Romney bumper sticker, and “now she runs the place.”  Capitano said she drops off her grandkids, then answers phone, puts signs together, or just listens to people who call the campaign to talk about what they’re going through.  

“At the close of early voting, we were up 14,000 early voters from where we were in 2008 at the close of early voting,” Mahoney says proudly.  It’s a number she fervently hopes to reclaim for North Carolina Republicans. 

Lonnae O’Neal writes a column about family, motherhood, race, culture, aging and life’s small stuff.



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