North Carolina has 100 counties. Voter Registration as of November 27, 2012 lists voter registrations as: Democratic 2,874,875; Republican 2,055,486; Libertarian 19,593; and, Unaffiliated 1,712,488 (Total: 6,662,442). Nine Counties now have more Unaffiliated voters than Democrats and 30 Counties have more Unaffiliated voters than Republicans.
The Wilson Times noted, “… more than 10,000 unaffiliated voters in Wilson County, a group that’s grown 35.4 percent since 2008.”
The Charlotte Observer said, “Unaffiliated voters – the fastest-growing registration in the state – now outnumber Republicans in Mecklenburg County, according to county data.”
The Watauga Democrat newspaper reported, “The number of unaffiliated registered voters in Watauga County has grown nearly 20 percent since 2008 to surpass totals for the Republican and Democratic parties.”
Rob Christensen said the two parties are “more partisan and more attuned to their most ideological wings.”
One could argue that we are also sorted by gender, race, age, geography and density of community (rural/urban) as well.
So, what does the growing number of Unaffiliated say about the the major parties in North Carolina and where do they go from here?
The NC GOP is aglow with supermajorities in the NC House and Senate, the Governor’s Office and a majority on the NC Supreme Court but is not immune to a national party in disarray that is rethinking its positions on a range of issues. And they aren’t immune to inner-Party competition for attention i.e. how long will Tillis and Berger hold hands and play nice? With a US Senate race upcoming, someone needs to lean further right to secure the GOP nomination and right to take on Sen. Hagan.
NC Democrats face rebuilding at the state level and a question mark as to how closely they align with national Democrats with the voters trending right of center in North Carolina. Redistricting is in place for the decade as is a Citizens United decision that changes the face of fundraising, campaigns, and dissemination of information on issues. Democratic legislators will have to fight issues without alienating future voters and Democratic Party leaders will need to respond to an agenda with an eye to winning over the Unaffiliated and holding their ranks.
The GOP will journey on with future primaries that draw out their ideological wing and an agenda focused on their core issues – taxes, lessening of regulations, and social issues that boost that ideological wing. But, their future depends on the balance of reason with extreme because extreme turns off the Unaffiliated who helped put them in power.
The Democrats must be ready to respond with an effective message on the economy, environmental issues/regulations, women’s issues, education and a reasonable response to the extreme. It’s the message but it is also the messenger(s). Party leaders rarely go on to elected office but must organize, rally the base, raise money and recruit new bodies.
The question for the future: will there be a center and who will take it in the next round?
Jeanne Milliken Bonds is a PR Consultant, Political Analyst and an NC Spin Panelist
Cross-Post: NC Spin
Political Parties Face Growing Numbers of Unaffiliated Voters in NC