As of Friday night, election outcomes of the two “chief executive” offices affecting North Carolina voters - President of the United States and Governor of North Carolina - are both being challenged by recount requests. In both cases, transition teams are moving forward as if nothing will change as the result of these requests, but still, for supporters of Hillary Clinton and Pat McCrory, there’s this overwhelming feeling that it “wasn’t supposed to be this way.”
In both cases, the outcomes can be traced to major changes in voting patterns in what had been dependable geographies for both political parties. In the case of Clinton and the Democrats on the national level the Upper Midwest went from reliably blue to red. For Pat McCrory in North Carolina it was the Lake Norman region that turned against him and voted for Roy Cooper in large numbers.
In both cases, voters in these areas chose to send their ‘traditional” candidate packing while helping cause unexpected victory for the other – assuming those victories stand. More pointedly, in both cases the losing side had ample warning to prevent the losses, yet those warnings were ignored. Candidates campaigned clearly thinking “their voters” wouldn’t dare do the unthinkable and support the other side.
In the race for President, the impact of the Upper Midwest can be seen in a series of maps published by New York Times just days after the election. Google “landslide counties 2016” to see them.
In the November 10th Times article you’ll see that since 1992 as the country became increasingly polarized between rural Republican red counties and urban Democrat blue counties, the Upper Midwest states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa remained stubbornly “grey”. That finally changed this election cycle with the rural parts of these states going heavily Republican.
While public polls didn’t show this occurring, there was an early sign that something was wrong with Hillary Clinton’s message in this part of the country. The proverbial “canary in the coal mine” for Democrats was the March Democratic Party primary in Michigan where Bernie Sanders pulled off a surprising victory.
The Sanders Campaign message on trade was very similar to that of Donald Trump and that message clearly resonated in this area of the country. If you look at the counties Sanders won in Michigan’s primary election, they closely mirror the ones that went landslide Republican for the first time this year in the general election.
A similar dynamic on a smaller scale played out here in North Carolina to undermine Pat McCrory’s reelection bid
The I77 HOT Lanes issue has raged very publicly since 2013 during the entire tenure of Pat McCrory’s term as Governor. The anti-toll activist group Widen I77 held its first big public meeting on January 14th, 2013 – two days after McCrory’s inauguration. Since then the issue has consumed all the electoral oxygen from every election cycle in the Lake Norman area. Elected officials communicated in every possible way that this was going to be a major issue locally for McCrory in his reelection bid. As a Republican bastion for years, any significant dip in support here could have game changing consequences state wide. Finally, you had the Huntersville election in 2015 and the NC-92 House primary this year as data points showing people in LKN were voting heavily based on this issue.
All of these warnings were ignored.
The end result was 33,000 votes lost for McCrory in thee Lake Norman area compared to his successful campaign in 2012. That number is according to some post election analysis done by Kurt Naas, founder of Widen I77. You can find more details on that at Naas’s blog - NCRidiculousness.Wordpress.com. As of Monday night that was more than three times Cooper’s 9,716 vote lead.
The lesson learned from these two examples is this.
If you take enough voters for granted for a long enough period of time, eventually those voters will actually say “ENOUGH!” When that happens no politician should be surprised to see those voters choose punishment over politics.
This post first appeared in the Herald Weekly at HuntersvilleHerald.com. Minor updates made since.