White Voters: White men and women have voted overwhelmingly Republican here since (at least) 1984, when they supported Ronald Reagan over Walter Mondale 76-24 percent. This year, state party officials from both sides say Obama needs 40 percent of the white vote to win here. Neither John Kerry, Al Gore or Bill Clinton came close to that mark. In the Democratic primary this year,14 percent of white voters said race was an important factor. Of those Democratic voters, less than half ? 46 percent -- said they would vote for Obama on Nov. 4. Far more ? 64 percent ? said they would vote Republican or sit out the election. But also keep in mind that the white proportion of the vote has dropped from 83 percent in 1992 to 71 percent in 2004.
Conservatives: This has has been one of the fastest growing states but it retains solid conservative roots. In 2004, 40 percent of North Carolina voters called themselves conservative, compared with 34 percent nationally. And it's just about how many moderates voted. So watch whether McCain -- and Sarah Palin -- can motivate conservatives to turn out in large numbers.
Partisanship: Tarheel voters have been fleeing the Democratic Party over the last quarter century. The percentage who identify themselves as Democrats has sunk from 50 percent in 1984 down to 39 percent in 2004. During that same period, Republican party identification has risen six percent; independents are up five percent. But our Political Unit reports Democrats have had an "eye-popping" 4-to-1 advantage over Republicans at signing up new voters. This also will be a good state to take stock of which candidate does a better job getting those new voters to actually show up at the polls.
Women: Broadly, women were six in 10 voters in 2004 -- the highest female turnout of any state. They swung to the winner in that and every other election here since at least 1984. Though white women have voted Republican by large margins in each of those elections, they have been more likely to vote Democratic than the men.
Evangelical White Christians: They were 36 percent of the vote here in 2004, compared with less than a quarter of the national vote. And they broke wide for George Bush, 84-16 percent. That's an impressive 68 point spread, even bigger than his 78-21 percent (57 point) advantage nationally.
Clinton Voters:Twenty-seven percent of West Virginia voters today were Democrats who had wanted Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. Clinton trounced Obama in the primaries here. But that was six months ago. And Obama was unable to bring about a third of them, who voted for McCain, back into the Democratic fold after Clinton lost the nomination.
Race: The electorate in West Virginia remains nearly all white -- 93 percent. Twenty-two percent of whites said race was an important factor in their vote and they broke for McCain 64 percent to 34 percent for Obama. Obama won white working class voters 53 percent to 45 percent for McCain, but he lost higher income whites, 35 percent to 63 percent.