WNC stays mainly Republican red

Colorful election maps may still be dominating the 2008 election coverage, but what does it all mean? In Western North Carolina, Buncombe and Jackson counties went for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, but they were dots of blue afloat in a sea of Republican red. That’s the big picture, at any rate (The Washington Post map even shows it all in dizzying 3-D).

The school of change: Though they aren’t quite old enough to vote, these inspired Madison High School seniors were lined up by 6 a.m. on Election Day. Photo By Margaret V. Williams

But sometimes, a close-up view may be more intriguing.

On Election Day, Xpress began at ground level. A drive through Madison County, for instance, revealed no long lines and little in the way of activity—except for three teenagers taking a break from holding up their Obama signs.

All were seniors at Madison High School, and none were old enough vote, though Jerry Chandler said he’s just a month shy of age 18. Fellow senior Jesse Davis said the trio had gotten up at 4 a.m. so they could make it to a high-traffic route in Marshall for the morning rush.

Asked why they were volunteering when they couldn’t vote, Mariah Auman replied that they were all in Civics class this year, learning about both major parties’ platforms and debating the issues. This year’s presidential vote will affect them, she argued.

Chandler agreed, adding, “We’ll be adults soon, and going to college and having to pay for health care.”

Their enthusiasm and knowledge about the issues gave a hint of the high turnout among young voters that pundits, reporters and analysts say helped spur Obama to victory. Nationwide, 66 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 supported Obama, according to one report—roughly double the number who voted for McCain.

But that trend was not enough to turn Madison County blue in the president’s race. According to Board of Elections Director Laura Ponder-Smith, her county fell about 100 votes shy of landing in Obama’s column—the closest margin seen in any WNC county this year. Interestingly, she notes, Madison County has almost twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans—8,026 to 4,276. There are also 3,751 unaffiliated voters and 12 Libertarians.

More than half of those voters cast their ballots early. “That’s substantially up from previous years,” says Ponder-Smith. Total voter turnout was up too, though it fell short of the 11,000 mark she’d been hoping to hit, winding up around 10,500 with a few provisional ballots still pending.

Still, it’s a significant bump up from other recent presidential elections—as in the rest of WNC:
• 8,000 votes cast in 1992 (when the county went Democratic, supporting Clinton/Gore)
• 6,400 in 1996 (another Clinton year)
• 8,000 in 2000 (swinging Republican, the county voted for Bush/Cheney)
• 9,643 in 2004 (Bush/Cheney).

Early voting, Ponder-Smith points out, didn’t start in North Carolina until 1994. Her figures also demonstrate that turnout tends to be lower during second-term presidential elections. In 2012, she predicts falling well below the 11,000 target.

But did Obama make “historic inroads in the South,” as a Nov. 5 New York Times article declared? Although provisional ballots were still pending at press time, the Associated Press called North Carolina for Obama on Nov. 6. Nonetheless, most of WNC still glows red.


Here are the tallies from a few counties in the region, as reported by The Washington Post:

Buncombe: 57% Obama 43% McCain
Jackson: 52% Obama 47% McCain

Madison: 49% Obama 50% McCain
Cherokee: 30% Obama 69% McCain
Haywood: 46% Obama 54% McCain
Henderson: 39% Obama 60% McCain
Mitchell: 29% Obama 71% McCain
McDowell: 36% Obama 63% McCain



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About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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8 thoughts on “WNC stays mainly Republican red

  1. marzafan

    I would appreciate it if you could include Polk County in the future when posting results like this. I consider Saluda et al to be in the Greater Asheville Area!

  2. Margaret Williams

    Points taken, folks.

    In Watauga County: 52% Obama, 47% McCain
    in Polk, 47% Obama, 57 % McCain

    Is it interesting that the three WNC counties w/ universities and/or major cities went for Obama?

  3. dave

    I think it is very hopeful that madison co. very nearly went to obama. It should be a “barely red” or maybe a heavy purple.

  4. Thomas Marx

    Margaret, it is interesting that “educated” folks don’t look at the issues and vote from emotion. Quite an interesting junxtaposition, isn’t it? Wait til the postgraduate voters realize they will be taxed at a high enough rate they won’t be ableto buy a new Volvo every 3 years any more. And will have to shop at Walmart with us unwashed masses, instead of Fresk Market. He he he.

  5. Ashevegasjoe

    Taxes for 95% of us “unwashed masses” will go down, not up. So, I’ll still be at the Fresh Market, though probably Green Life more. He he he, HE!

    The other, top five-percent, will go back to what they paid under Clinton, which was still less than under Bush I, and still less than under Reagan. Please get your facts straight, this is a no-spin zone, lol.

  6. Margaret Williams

    Thank you for all your comments!

    Another surprise in Madison County was that registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans. Why did they not get out to vote?

  7. dave


    My assumption is that most registered Republicans were pretty disgusted with Bush, at al. I remember hearing some comments along those lines at the
    Post Office many months back.
    Without quoting the whole conversation, one guy said, “I’m sick of Bush. As bad as it sounds, I’m just not going to vote this year.”

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