Monday, August 17, 2009

Charlotte mayor's race: 'close right to the end'

Public Policy Polling, which does a lot of work for Democratic candidates, says the race for Charlotte mayor is a virtual dead heat and will remain close right up until the end. Republican John Lassiter has a razor thin lead of 44-43 over Democrat Anthony Fox, says PPP analyst Tom Jensen.

Here's his analysis:

The race to be the next mayor of Charlotte is a statistical dead heat, with Republican John Lassiter leading Democrat Anthony Foxx 44-43 in the contest to replace Pat McCrory.

Both candidates are pretty popular with the city's electorate. 53% have a favorable opinion of Lassiter, with only 22% viewing him negatively and 48% have a positive one of Foxx with 22% holding an unfavorable opinion of him as well. It's unusual in the increasingly polarized world of partisan politics to see both candidates in a race sporting a better than 2:1 positive favorability ratio.

There are two key groups of voters who may well decide this race: independents and the Democratic voters whose crossover support of Pat McCrory has allowed the Republican to remain mayor of the Democratic city for over a decade. Lassiter has a 47-31 lead with independents, but Foxx has the 59-30 advantage with Democrats who approve of McCrory's job performance, indicating that he will do a better job of locking up his party's vote than recent Democratic nominees have.

Voters send conflicting messages about the direction of the city. On one hand McCrory has an excellent 57% approval rating, something that should aid Lassiter, who likely would be an extension of the current administration. On the other hand 59% of voters say that it's time for change in how the city is led with only 34% saying they're happy with how things are going currently, a sentiment that Foxx's campaign should be able to successfully tap into.

So far in the campaign Lassiter has put a heavy emphasis on his experience, while Foxx has been more focused on his vision for the city. By a 60-28 margin voters say that they are more concerned about a candidate's vision when deciding who to vote for than his experience.

Here are two things each candidate needs to focus on to win:

Anthony Foxx

-One very good piece of news for Foxx is that black voters appear to be motivated to come out this fall- we expect them to make up at least 30% of the electorate. Right now Foxx has a 70-17 lead with them. If he can push that up closer to Obama levels- 90% or more- he's going to be very difficult to beat.

-Although he's certainly doing a better job than most Democratic candidates for mayor have done lately of locking up the white Democratic vote, he's still losing 25% of it to Lassiter at this point. Getting his party more unified around him would go a long way.

John Lassiter

-Right now he's only getting 62% of the vote from people who approve of Pat McCrory's job performance. If he can do more to convince those folks happy with the current leadership that he'll provide continuity his numbers will improve.

-Do a better job of earning support from voters who have a favorable opinion of both him and Foxx- right now the Democrat has a 57-36 lead with their mutual admirers but conceivably those are folks who could go either way- Lassiter needs to get more of them to go his way.
This race looks like it will probably be close right to the end.