There are a lot more Democrats in North Carolina than there are Republicans. Always have been, and the advantage is so large that it's likely to remain so at least for another generation.
Of course that doesn't mean that Democrats always win statewide races, especially at the federal level. That's because there are a lot of folks on the more conservative spectrum of the party who vote Republican for key offices like President and Senate.
Even this year, which was remarkably successful for the Democratic Party in the state, a lot of white Democrats voted Republican for President, Senate, and Governor. Our final pre-election poll found Barack Obama winning white Dems 71-28, Bev Perdue winning them 71-25, and Kay Hagan winning them 76-21.
Exceptional black turnout made the Democratic sweep at the top of the ballot possible, but it begs the question: are Democrats going to be able to knock off Richard Burr in 2010 if turnout returns to more standard patterns?
It all depends on who their candidate is, and if it's Roy Cooper the answer is yes. In the Burr/Cooper poll we conducted last week Cooper led 63-16 among white Democrats. Extrapolate those figures out to 100, and it's an 80-20 lead for Cooper with white voters in his party. In other words that margin is five points better than the one Kay Hagan had with white Dems, 14 points better than Perdue's, and 17 points better than Obama's.
For the most part a Democratic nominee who gets 80% of the white vote in his/her party is going to win statewide in North Carolina, even with a much more normal turnout than what we saw in 2008. Cooper's record and profile have given him the popularity within his party to make that a possibility, and that's why he's the Dems' strongest possible candidate in 2010.