About a week ago or so, I made my preliminary estimate of how the North Carolina delegate breakdown would be. I gave Barack Obama a net margin of 11 delegates (63-52), with a net margin in the popular vote of 16%. This was before the media wasted more of everyone's time over Reverend Wright and the increasingly one-sided discussion over the merits of a 'gas tax holiday'. Suffice to say, the latest polling average for North Carolina shows a race that has tightened a bit. As a result, I still think that Obama will win the state in double digits, albeit by a lower margin. However, I don't think that his margin of victory in the delegate count will change.
Follow me beneath the fold for an analysis on my updated prediction...
One of the reasons I do feel that the race will tighten is that Hillary and Bill Clinton have been all over this state, particularly in rural white areas where Clinton will likely perform very well. On the other hand, Obama has spent comparatively little time in the state, possibly content with keeping the margins narrow in Indiana in exchange for sacrificing some of his lead in North Carolina. We'll see how it plays out, but early voting is a good omen for Obama so far: according to Kossack dean4ever, African-American turnout in early voting exceeded 40%, which would likely indicate a blowout of epic proportions for Obama, at least in early voting. This seems to have been validated in polling; SurveyUSA shows Obama with a 16% margin over Clinton in voters who already voted, while PPP shows him with a 29-point margin. Either way, it's clear that the numbers certainly look beneficial for Obama in early voting; the question is how those margins will hold up when people vote tomorrow.
Regardless of the aforementioned numbers, I still believe that the above districts will remain the same in delegate counts:
CD-01 (6 delegates): Barack Obama 4, Hillary Clinton 2
CD-03 (4 delegates): Barack Obama 2, Hillary Clinton 2
CD-04 (9 delegates): Barack Obama 6, Hillary Clinton 3
CD-05 (5 delegates): Hillary Clinton 3, Barack Obama 2
CD-06 (5 delegates): Hillary Clinton 3, Barack Obama 2
CD-07 (6 delegates): Barack Obama 3, Hillary Clinton 3
CD-08 (5 delegates): Barack Obama 3, Hillary Clinton 2
CD-09 (6 delegates): Barack Obama 3, Hillary Clinton 3
CD-11 (6 delegates): Hillary Clinton 4, Barack Obama 2
CD-12 (7 delegates): Barack Obama 5, Hillary Clinton 2
CD-13 (7 delegates): Barack Obama 4, Hillary Clinton 3
The districts below will change, in my opinion.
In his prediction diary, Kossack Scott in NJ makes a good observation that accounts for my change of heart: half of the registered Democrats in the district are African-American. Combined with the fact that Obama will likely win in the Raleigh suburbs, he should be able to break the 58.5% margin with relative ease. Clinton may be able to hold down the numbers, but with her base (white seniors) in single digits in terms of demographics, it's unlikely that she will get the 41.5% needed to cross the threshold in terms of earning a delegate split.
Barack Obama: 4 pledged delegates
Hillary Clinton: 2 pledged delegates
Although the numbers likely point to Clinton being unable to break the 70% threshold in this district, I'm inclined to believe that they will pull out a 4-1 split here. Aside from being unfriendly territory for Obama (a good portion of the district can be classified as Appalachian), the Clintons (both Bill and Hillary) have been spending an awful lot of time stumping in the western portion of the state. Although Obama paid a visit to Hickory once, I'm not sure that will be enough to get him over the 30% hump. As I had previously noted, it's also a very white district and very conservative - both of which do not favor Obama.
Hillary Clinton: 4 pledged delegates
Barack Obama: 1 pledged delegate
I had previously estimated Obama winning by a 16% margin. However, with the later polling averages tightening up, I think Obama's margins will be cut into largely from the extensive touring of the rural areas done by the Clintons, particularly Bill. However, this won't prevent Obama from clearing double-digits relatively easily. At this point, I'll predict Obama winning the popular vote by 12.2%, or by a margin of 56.1%-43.9%. This won't change the allocation of the at-large and pledged PLEO delegates that I had previously calculated.
Barack Obama: 15 pledged delegates
Hillary Clinton: 11 pledged delegates
Barack Obama: 7 pledged delegates
Hillary Clinton: 5 pledged delegates
All in all, I don't expect the race to change much from what I had predicted earlier. I would recommend that folks check out predictions made by Poblano and Elliot over at Election Inspection. While their projections, from the standpoint of a partisan Obama supporter, certainly look good, I think they are too optimistic and rely too much on hard demographics. Watching the news cycle play out and seeing the Clintons criss-cross the state, I just don't think Obama will pick up extra delegates in these marginal districts (CD-09, for example) that would inflate his delegate count. Their margins of victory also seem far too large for Obama; we haven't seen a popular vote margin for Obama above 15% since PPP gave Obama a 25-point lead 2 weeks ago. Given that Obama's topline number has come down since then - and Clinton's has risen - one has to expect that the only way for Obama to massively outperform rests on the ability of his GOTV machine tomorrow.
One thing to note has been the patterns in early voting. In a comment in Elliot's dKos version of his predictions, it was pointed out that African-American voting in just about every district has been extremely high. While those numbers certainly look good, I would look for them to come down. Using Poblano's handy North Carolina popular vote calculator, Obama will win by 14% (57-43) if there is 40% African-American turnout (which he wins by a 90-10 margin), while Clinton wins white voters by a 30-point spread. I think African-American turnout will probably be around 38%; using the same demographic splits as above, Obama earns a 11.8% margin of victory, which is fairly close to what I estimate. However, if Obama can get closer to 40% of the white vote than 35%, he will win the state by over 15%.
Basically, it comes down to this: the early numbers look very good for Obama. It's just a question of whether those same margins can be maintained in the voting that occurs tomorrow. For now, though, I am comfortable in saying that Obama will win the delegate count and the popular vote percentage by double digits, although it will be lower than it might have seemed a couple weeks ago.