Editorial: There’s life in NC primary yet
Rumors of the North Carolina presidential primary’s irrelevance may be greatly exaggerated, or at least premature.
The North Carolina vote could indeed make a difference on the Democratic Party’s eventual choice. That’s not certain, but the possibility is encouraging to those who felt like mere spectators to the most important vote in the land.
As the nominating process steamrolled through Iowa, New Hampshire and on to Super Tuesday, conventional wisdom held that both parties’ choices would be clear by Feb. 7. Since North Carolina’s primary would still be two months off, votes here were expected to have little impact on the presidential race.
But, lo and behold, the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is still very much a race. With 2,025 delegates needed for nomination, she has 1,024 and he has 933. Though other states will hold primaries in the coming weeks, there’s a chance the Democratic nominee won’t be absolutely clear by early May. North Carolina is a large state; the vote here could make a big difference ó a first in recent memory.
That would be ironic for former Sen. John Edwards. A lively primary process finally works its way to his home state, and he is not a candidate any longer. But Edwards has already suffered the worst kind of timing, through no fault of his own. History is about to be made one way or another ó with the first woman nominated for president or the first African-American ó and his populist candidacy was disappearing into the shadows of this monumental moment. Withdrawing was painful for Edwards, but it was the right thing to do.
The N.C. primary won’t have any bearing on the Republican nomination, by the looks of it. With Mitt Romney’s withdrawal, John McCain is virtually unbeatable. But an interesting chemistry may be brewing, between the lively Democratic contest and an all-but-certain Republican choice. North Carolina has voted heavily Republican in presidential races since Ronald Reagan first won in 1980. This year’s historic scenario is energizing Democrats who have not voted for years ó and bringing out new ones to register. The GOP might not be able to take strong presidential-race support from North Carolina for granted any more. The Republican nominee will have to work for it.
Anything can happen, but so far the 2008 race has given the public plenty of reason to pay attention. Primary and Election Day turnout could be high. That in itself is a big step forward.