The waves of moderates and independents who've moved here have made this a battleground state, one that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has a chance to win, pollsters say. That's a massive shift for a state where Sen. Jesse Helms used race in 1990 and 1996 to beat Senate seat rival Harvey Gantt, Charlotte's only African American mayor.
But many of today's voters weren't even here then.
An Observer analysis of county voter registration records shows more than half of Mecklenburg's eligible voters registered after 1999.
Newcomers “have everything to do with," the state being in play, said Ferrel Guillory, director of the Program on Public Life at UNC Chapel Hill.
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Republican political consultant Dee Stewart disagrees. N.C. is a battleground, he said, because Obama has outspent Republican John McCain and is ahead of him nationally.
Obama “is running further ahead than the Democratic nominees in 2000 and 2004 and some of that is spilling over into North Carolina,” Stewart said. Another factor, he said: “The economy is not performing well right now with a Republican in office.” Still, he believes the state's conservative roots are strong and McCain will win here.
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