I had a chance this morning to sit down with Jerry Meek, who is the state chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Jerry is 37, has been involved in politics since he was 13 and, at age 17, became the youngest delegate ever elected to a Democratic National Convention. He’s also, at about 6’ 6”, a looming presence (and a good guy). He gave me a few minutes of his time after breakfast today.
1) he is convinced that the Democrats in North Carolina have a better ground game than the Republicans. That’s the retail politics I referred to in my previous post. Therefore, Meek says, the current polls showing a close race in North Carolina understate Obama’s chances, if anything, because turnout in November “is going to be like nothing we’ve ever seen in this state.”
2) in a sign of the shifting winds in North Carolina, Meek pointed that “we are the only state in the entire country that been targetted for the presidential race, a senatorial race and a gubernatorial race.” Incumbent Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole, the wife of former Senator Bob Dole, is in a surprisingly close race with challenger Kay Hagan. And, the Democratic Senatorial Congressional Campaign Committee has just decided to put a whopping six million dollars of its own money into her campaign. Finally, Democrat Bev Perdue is receiving significant backing from the national Democratic Governor’s association in trying to succeed two term Democratic governor Mike Easley.
3) that the party’s internal polling shows a continuing and fascinating shift in the state: the majority of those people who moved to North Carolina as adults are strongly inclined toward Obama, whereas those who were born and bred North Carolinians are strongly pro-McCain. Meek is optimistic about November partly because the demographic trends favor the Democrats – in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill “triangle,” in Greensboro and in NC’s biggest city, Charlotte, newcomers are changing the face of the state and with it, the state’s politics.
Bottom line, for Meek, not only is North Carolina in play for Obama in November, but it’s increasingly fertile ground for Democrats going forward. Meek’s an optimist, and his position requires him to be a cheerleader for the party, not an objective observer. Still, Meek’s hopeful tune is music to the ears of long-suffering North Carolina Democrats.
Watch Jerry Meek speak during a Democratic Party dinner in Richmond, NC: