No one saw this one coming.
In a state where former president George W. Bush trounced Sen. John Kerry by 12 percentage points earlier in the decade, few predicted that North Carolina would be transformed into an electoral toss-up in the 2008 elections. Indeed, no Democratic presidential candidate had won the reliably conservative-leaning Tar Heel State since president Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford in 1976 in the aftermath of Watergate scandal. And who could expect the state of ultraconservative Jesse Helms to go for the freshman Senator from Illinois, the first African-American major party contender for the presidency?
Barack Obama made his first appearance in North Carolina right here in Durham, alongside fellow Democrat Mayor Bill Bell. After he was able to wrest the North Carolina democratic primary from Hillary Clinton (by double digits), however, speculation began that the changing demographic landscape of the state --driven by an influx of new minority and young voters--as well as dissatisfaction with the economy might give Obama a fighting chance in the general election against Republican Sen. John McCain.
Battle lines were drawn. Both candidates, realizing the importance of the newly crowned swing state, flooded North Carolina with attention, pumping ample campaign funds into the fight and crisscrossing North Carolina until the eleventh hour to persuade last-minute voters. In Greensboro. In Greenville. In Wilmington. In Fayetteville (and again). In Concord. In Raleigh (twice). In Charlotte.
Dukies--as part of the much touted youth vote--got in on the action, canvassing and phone-banking for their preferred candidates and taking advantage of the newly installed early voting station in the Old Trinity room.
Come election day, Democrats swept all of North Carolina's major races, as The Chronicle followed along at the official Democratic and Republican watch parties in Raleigh and on campus. Barack Obama easily crossed the 360 electoral vote threshold to clinch his historic bid for the White House. Perhaps even more surprisingly, newcomer Kay Hagan stole the Senate race from seasoned vet Elizabeth Dole while then-Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue became North Carolina's first woman governor, defeating Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory.
North Carolinians, however, had to wait to hear of the fate of their own state. As of Nov. 5, the day after the election, election officials declared the race too close to call. But with 13,000 votes separating Obama from McCain and not enough provisional ballots to make up the difference, the Associated Press called North Carolina's 15 electoral votes for Obama Nov. 6.
Although there are predictions abound of what will shape North Carolina politics in the decade to come, if election 2008 proved anything, it was this: nothing's a sure thing.
The Democratic sweep of North Carolina was number 10 on our stories of the decade list. These are the issues and events that made headlines for weeks at a time over the last ten years, those that sparked the most debate on campus and beyond, and the ones that we believe will continue to shape our coverage in the years to come.
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