Who's Loving The Long Primary?

by digby

Those damned Democratic voters:

RALEIGH, N.C. - Not since 1988 has North Carolina had much of a voice in choosing a presidential nominee. Back then, it joined several Southern states to help pick Al Gore, a neighbor from Tennessee.

But the longer-than-expected race between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination will thrust the state into the national spotlight when it has its say May 6. Indiana also votes that day.

The primary, offering 115 national convention delegates, comes two weeks after Pennsylvania gave the former first lady the win she needed to stay in the race. But Obama is favored to win North Carolina, the largest prize among the contests remaining.

"My crystal ball wasn't working well last year, and I certainly would not have anticipated this," said state Democratic Party chairman Jerry Meek. "But, in retrospect, having a May primary was a tremendously astute decision."

Voters, especially new ones, have taken note.

More than 165,000 people have registered to vote in North Carolina in the first three months of the year, a nearly threefold increase from the same period in 2004. Election officials expect a record turnout May 6 — about half of the more than 5.7 million registered voters, compared with past turnouts ranging from 16 percent to 31 percent.

Another wild card: A new law allows unregistered voters to sign up and vote on the same day through May 3. Both campaigns have launched efforts to turn out those voters, and the polling sites have been flooded since they opened last week.

As of Thursday morning, more than 81,000 "one-stop" ballots had been cast — about eight times higher than during the 2006 primary, according to the state Board of Elections. An additional 8,700 absentee ballots have been collected, officials said.

The article goes on to say that a large number of new voters are African American, which may be good for Obama, but it's great for the Democrats. Blacks have been the most loyal Democratic voting bloc for decades now, but in southern states with a long history of disenfranchisement and discrimination it's a joy to see the whole community feeling excited about an election.

Again, I think this is good for party and good for politics. It's possible that some of those who are voting for the first time may not vote in the fall for anyone but the candidate who inspired them to get involved (a likely explanation for at least some of those people who respond to pollsters that way), but I doubt it. The vast majority are going to feel they have a stake in the outcome because they've voted once and they will stay with the party all the way to November.

North Carolina is a possible future swing state and I think it's terrific that the candidates will be mixing it up down there and giving them a chance to participate in this historic primary. A lot of these newly registered Dems will be Dems for the rest of their lives.

The fact that these two "first" candidates have hit nearly every state is a major party builder. It's the 50 state strategy being used in a primary and I think it's quite interesting to see it played out. As long as the millions of small donors keep the money pouring in I honestly can't see why this thing absolutely must be closed down.