Polls suggest Romney has an edge in close race

jmorrill@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 3, 2012 

  • McCrory leads comfortably Republican Pat McCrory enjoys a comfortable lead over Democrat Walter Dalton in North Carolina’s gubernatorial race, according to two polls released Monday. The former Charlotte mayor leads by 15 points in an Elon University Poll and six in a survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm. The polls are the latest to show McCrory leading Dalton, North Carolina’s lieutenant governor, in the race to succeed outgoing Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue. McCrory spokesman Brian Nick said the polls show McCrory’s message is “clearly resonating with voters.” Dalton dismissed the Elon poll and said he’s not worried about others showing him behind, saying his internal campaign numbers “show it very close.” He expects the numbers to shift after he launches his TV campaign in two weeks. “We have plenty of time left; people really have not focused on the race,” he said. “I really don’t go crazy about the polls right now.” Jim Morrill and John Frank
  • How the poll was done The Elon University/Charlotte Observer Poll surveyed 1,089 likely North Carolina voters by phone from Aug. 25-30. The margin of error is 3 percentage points. The High Point/Fox 8 poll also was conducted during last week’s GOP convention. The sampling error is 4.3 percentage points. Public Policy Polling’s survey has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
  • Percentages • 48: North Carolina voters who put the economy as the most important issue. No other issue was mentioned by more than 16 percent. • 23: N.C. Democrats who support Romney. • 9: Republicans who back Obama. • 58: Voters age 18-30 who back Obama (compares to 34 percent for Romney). • 52: Men who support Romney (versus 40 percent for Obama). • 44: Women who back Romney (versus 45 percent for Obama). • 32: White support for Obama (compared to 59 percent for Romney). • 89: Black support for Obama (versus 1 percent for Romney). • 51: Voters “very excited” for Romney. • 47: “Very excited” for Obama.

Three polls released Monday continued to show a tight presidential race in North Carolina, though some analysts say the numbers herald better news for Republican Mitt Romney than Democrat Barack Obama.

“He’s got something of an uphill fight,” analyst David Gergen said of the president.

Gergen spoke at The Charlotte Observer during the unveiling of the Elon University Poll. It showed Romney leading Obama 47 percent to 43 percent.

Meanwhile, a new poll by High Point University and Fox 8 showed Romney with a three-point lead, 46 percent to 43 percent. Like Elon’s, it was conducted during last week’s GOP convention.

And a survey by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling showed the two candidates tied at 48 percent.

The Elon results were first published in Monday’s Observer.

“We clearly have some momentum,” GOP Chairman Reince Priebus told reporters Monday. “You saw a nice poll here in North Carolina this morning showing us expanding our lead.”

N.C. a ‘must-win state’

But not all the polling news was good for Romney.

Despite the North Carolina results, the GOP convention had little impact on the race, according to Gallup’s tracking poll. That organization found almost as many Americans less likely to vote for Romney as a result of the election as for him.

North Carolina is still a battleground for both campaigns.

“North Carolina is a must-win state for Romney,” said analyst Charlie Cook, part of the panel on the Elon Poll. “He cannot get to 270 (electoral votes) without North Carolina, and the Obama campaign knows that.”

But Gergen said other findings of the Elon Poll suggest a Romney advantage in the state.

Almost half of likely voters, for example, call themselves conservative; only 25 percent describe themselves as liberal.

Jobs and the economy eclipsed all other issues and voters gave Romney a 52 percent to 39 percent edge on handling the economy.

And 87 percent of Republicans say they’re excited about the race compared to 59 percent of Democrats.

“This is a state that is rapidly changing,” Gergen said. “But I’m not sure it’s changed enough for Barack Obama.”

But PPP director Tom Jensen said he expects the state to remain a battleground.

“North Carolina,” he said, “might be a swing state for a long time moving forward.”

Morrill: 704-358-5059

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