There are many different answers to the questions we are asking about last week’s elections.
  • Why and how did Obama win?
  • Was Romney’s team really surprised that they lost?
  • Why, when Democrats were making gains throughout the rest of the country, did they lose so much in North Carolina?

You can get answers anywhere and everywhere. And if you do not like those answers, you can go around the corner and get different ones, maybe more to your liking.

I think Obama’s win was as much a mandate for further change as it was a rejection of the prospect of going back to 2008, to a time of financial crisis and Middle East wars without an end in sight. And, narrowly, it was a rejection of the prospect of refighting the battle over health care reform.

Republican consultant Carter Wrenn says that it would be a mistake to pinpoint just one reason for Obama’s win. However, he believes that the Democrats’ organization and modern voter turnout effort was an important trump card.

Along the same lines, Tom Drew, a fundraising consultant for a number of organizations, including the National Rifle Association, believes the $500 million spent by Republican groups in support of Romney was misdirected. It was used to buy a barrage of television ads in the last six weeks of the campaign. These ads were not nearly as effective as the intensive ground game of the Obama campaign which focused on identifying supporters and insuring that they voted.

Although the NRA put together a similar intensive turnout effort in support of Romney, it had some counterproductive results in Wisconsin. Earlier this year the NRA developed a strong get-out-the-vote effort among gun owners’ families that helped defeat the effort to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker. The NRA mounted a similar effort in last week’s election to bring out the gun owners’ families again to vote for Romney.  Just as the NRA and the Republicans hoped, a large majority of men who owned guns did vote for Romney. But there was a problem. Many of the gun owners’ wives didn’t. Upset with Romney’s strident stand on abortion, they voted for Obama. 

To illustrate the incredible reach of the Democratic effort, longtime Jim Hunt advisor Gary Pearce tells about an Obama worker in Wilson County. She was told to visit a trailer park “that she had never heard of before” and to find the mobile home where an Obama supporter lived and get that particular person to vote. She did. Another vote for Obama. He also tells of another North Carolina Obama supporter who got a tweet after the polls closed here asking her to call someone in Wisconsin, who was an identified Obama supporter who had not yet voted.

What about North Carolina? Why did it buck the pattern of Democratic gains almost everywhere else in the country? Pearce says several factors gave McCrory a special boost that helped him to a big victory. McCrory come close to winning in 2008, and also had a statewide organization and recognition, no primary opposition, and lots of money.

Meanwhile, Walter Dalton was less well known and got off to a slow start due to Governor Perdue’s late announcement that she would not run. He had a tough primary contest and very little money to apply to the fall campaign. Dalton had to carry the burden of the scandals and trials that tarnished prior Democratic administrations. Thus, McCrory’s success does not reflect a permanent shift in North Carolina voter preferences.

Pointing out the reelection success of other Democratic statewide candidates, Pearce argues that the state is still competitive for both political parties.

Of course, if you do not like my answers you can get a variety of different ones from almost anybody you ask.