Long, long ago, before some of you were born, North Carolina had three industries: textiles, furniture and tobacco. In the 1970s, we realized the textiles and furniture were moving overseas and tobacco was, well, going up in smoke.
So leaders like Governors Jim Hunt and Jim Martin started recruiting different industries from across the country and around the world. Like Glaxo, as it was known then.
A lot of companies run by a lot of smart people – who needed to employ smart people and wanted schools that would help them raise smart children – started moving here.
North Carolina changed. A provincial state became cosmopolitan. A thriving pharma industry took root in the Triangle (see the Campbells).
At first, a lot of those newcomers were Republicans – not Jesse Helms Republicans, but national Republicans.
Today, more and more of them are Independents and Democrats. So are their children, who go to public universities.
In 2008, all those people and their children rose up and voted Democratic, as did African-Americans excited about Obama. Republicans had missed the change that happened right in front of them. Obama’s team may be from Chicago, but they saw how North Carolina had changed.
That’s why, as I told Rob, North Carolina is the new Ohio in presidential politics. (Just a lot nicer place.) And why Team Obama is spending time and money here.
Don’t be fooled by 2010. Those 2008 Democrats didn’t turn out. They saw what happened as a result. And the pool of potential new voters there – African-Americans, Hispanics, college students and suburbanites – is still huge for Democrats.
Now, North Carolina still has an awful lot of conservative folks. (Did you go to the Fair? You know what I mean.) And, this time, the Republicans won’t be asleep.
So we’re in for a year of political junkie heaven.