North Carolina Key for Biden and Senate Democrats
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the state, which Trump won by nearly 4 points in 2016, could be key for a Democratic takeover.
By Nick Fouriezos
In the wake of Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s death, the power of the U.S. Senate is clearer than ever — as Republicans are poised to use their majority to confirm a new Supreme Court justice potentially just days before the November election. And while that is a painful pill for Democrats to swallow, there is one bit of consolation this week: Their upper chamber humiliation at the hands of Mitch McConnell may not last much longer.
Democrats now have a 77 percent chance of winning the Senate majority in November, according to our OZY model with data and technology firm 0ptimus. That’s an increase from last week, with the most likely result a 52-48 split, as Democrats are predicted to flip Senate seats in Arizona and Colorado while also winning toss-up races in Maine and North Carolina.
The Tar Heel State saw the biggest movement recently, with Republican incumbent Thom Tillis’ chances of holding his seat dropping down to just 33 percent. Democrat Cal Cunningham, a veteran and former state senator, has leapfrogged Tillis in fundraising in what may end up being the most expensive Senate battleground in the nation. What’s more, because North Carolina has had absentee mail ballots available for weeks, and begins early voting soon, Tillis has less time than other Republican incumbents — such as Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who was trailing by 3 points in a recent poll — to bolster his support.
That’s also the case for the presidential race, where North Carolina polls have consistently showed Biden opening up a small lead in the last two weeks. “The Trump campaign is rapidly running out of time to reverse course,” says Scott Tranter, founder and CEO of 0ptimus. And in order for Republicans to even have a shot at winning the Senate? “They would likely need Georgia to slide back into leaning Republican, take the edge in Iowa and nudge states like North Carolina and Maine into competitive territory.”
Those polls don’t yet take into account how the coming Supreme Court nomination battle will affect key races. However, Tranter suggests that it “could conceivably polarize the races” — helping Republican candidates in traditionally conservative strongholds, such as North Carolina, Montana, Iowa and North Carolina. “They tend to be a little more religious focused,” Tranter says, “and when they cite their reason why they support Trump, it’s almost always the court.”
If North Carolina does come down to a low single-digit margin, one key demographic to watch will be Latino voters, who have increased from just .2 percent of the vote in 2004 to around 3 percent today. A poll released Monday by Latino research firm EquisLabs reported that 64 percent of those voters said they would back Biden, compared to just 24 percent supporting Trump.
“This election is balancing on a knife’s edge in key states, and the data make it clear: Latino voters can make all the difference,” says Ben Jealous, president of People For the American Way. “North Carolina and Pennsylvania are ‘Latino boosts’ where Latinx performance plays a pivotal role in a tight contest,” adds Carlos Odio, a senior vice president of EquisLabs.
One key way that 2020 differs from 2016? The race seems much steadier at this point, with Biden’s lead remaining mostly stable — partly, Tranter believes, due to less media attention on Trump’s big campaign events.
“I don’t know if people noticed … but Trump has been doing a rally nearly every day, but we haven’t seen it on TV. He’s not being covered the way he was,” Tranter says. That nonstop coverage was crucial to Trump’s upset victory in 2016.