Choosing North Carolina a mistake?

When the Democratic National Committee chose North Carolina for its 2012 national convention, the decision made some sense.  Barack Obama had scored a surprising, if narrow, victory in North Carolina in 2008, which gave Democrats their first win in the South since Clinton.  Using North Carolina as a swing-state beachhead, Obama could force Republicans onto defense in the 2012 election in their bastion of strength, and help push North Carolina into following Virginia’s path back to the Democratic Party.  After all, Democrats succeeded at a similar effort in Colorado in 2008 with their convention, strengthening the state party.

Unfortunately, as political analyst Stuart Rothenberg argues in Roll Call, the decision looks like a big mistake in retrospect:

The state’s Democratic governor, Beverly Perdue, is so unpopular — her job approval has been fluctuating from 30 percent to 40 percent for months — that she wisely decided not to seek re-election this year. A recent survey by Public Policy Polling, a Raleigh-based Democratic polling firm, showed only 60 percent of Democrats approve of the job the governor is doing.A handful of Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination, including former Rep. Bob Etheridge and the state’s sitting lieutenant governor, Walter Dalton, but virtually everyone expects former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (R), who lost to Perdue narrowly four years ago, to win the state’s top office in November.

Republicans don’t usually win the top job; only two of them have held the office since Reconstruction.  But that’s not the real reason why this is looking like disaster on the hoof:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, North Carolina’s preliminary unemployment rate for March stood at 9.7 percent, lower than only three states (California, Rhode Island and Nevada) and the District of Columbia. Apparently, the Obama administration’s jobs recovery has not shifted into high gear in the Tar Heel State.

Of course, if the state’s economy is a mess, it’s still in better shape than the North Carolina Democratic Party.

Two weeks ago, the state party’s executive director, Jay Parmley, resigned amid accusations of sexual harassment. North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman David Parker, who accepted Parmley’s resignation but seemed to defend him, has also come under fire. Some Democratic activists are now demanding his resignation.

Finally, the president will accept his party’s nomination — and presumably beat up on corporate America and the wealthy — at Bank of America Stadium (after a couple of days at Time Warner Cable Arena). Expect the press to point out the irony, which could put President Barack Obama’s campaign on the defensive more than a few times.

In fact, Mitt Romney has already hit Obama over the high unemployment rate in North Carolina.  Expect to hear even more along those lines as the conventions approach.  The name of the stadium will also likely provoke a couple of attack ads, as well as the need to rent out a stadium rather than just deliver the speech at the convention hall.  If they haul out the Barackopolis again, that will make for some hilarious eye-poking.

But there’s more that Rothenberg misses, too.  As in Colorado, Democrats wound up picking a host site in a right-to-work state.  Now that the DNC has fallen so short on fundraising for the event — which they had to shorten to three days for cost containment — they want unions to pick up the rest of the tab.  That puts Big Labor in the unenviable position of paying the bill for non-union labor, to the tune of as much as $18 million, while they fight legislators who passed right-to-work laws in Indiana and Arizona and a governor who enacted PEU reforms in Wisconsin.  Don’t expect that stretch of funding to help matters in any of those three states, not to mention the fact that it’s going to take some funds away from the outside-group Obama election effort, too.

The gamble paid off in Colorado four years ago.  This time around, Democrats may end up losing their shirts … and the election, too.

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