RALEIGH It wasn’t a great week for North Carolina Democrats. Job losses mounted. One poll showed President Barack Obama trailing Mitt Romney in the state. Another showed Gov. Bev Perdue as the nation’s least popular governor.
Despite that, many of the 1,200 Democrats who gathered for their party’s state convention Saturday said they’re optimistic about their party’s chances.
“In the long run I think we’re going to carry North Carolina,” said Betsy Wells, a party activist from Kings Mountain. “Is it going to be tough? Yes.”
Saturday’s gathering was largely devoted to lengthy elections of delegates to the national convention in Charlotte, a coveted ticket with credentials expected to be hard to come by. Most speeches were reserved for Saturday night’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, headlined by Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of the vice president.
But earlier, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton brought the crowd to its feet with a fiery speech that targeted his GOP gubernatorial opponent, Pat McCrory, and legislative Republicans.
Dalton called the former Charlotte mayor the “cheerleader for failed policies” of the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
“We cannot let Pat McCrory and his allies destroy our economy,” Dalton told the crowd. “He’s had far too much tea to drink. He’s pandering to the tea party.”
Dalton also criticized McCrory’s emphasis on vocational education, saying his proposals would limit student choice while hurting the state’s community colleges.
McCrory spokesman Brian Nick responded by attacking Dalton’s “partisan rant and angry political rhetoric.” He said McCrory unveiled his education proposals at Wake Tech Community College and has stressed the importance of community colleges.
Optimism by many state Democrats came despite months of unwelcome headlines.
On Friday, new figures showed that only three states had higher unemployment rates than North Carolina’s 9.4 percent in May. The state lost 16,500 jobs last month.
Earlier, former U.S. Sen. John Edwards’ trial revived details of his affair. The state party’s executive director resigned amid accusations of sexual harassment. And party Chair David Parker of Iredell County rejected calls from top Democrats to step down and had his resignation rejected by the party’s executive committee.
“I don’t believe any of those stories will have an impact on the outcome in November,” Parker said Saturday. “These issues that have come up are distractions and they simply won’t work.”
Meanwhile a new poll by Raleigh’s Public Policy Polling showed Obama trailing Republican Mitt Romney by two percentage points, within the margin of error. . But some predicted such numbers will be forgotten by November.
“A month is a lifetime in the political world,” said state Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin. “I don’t trust any polls at this point.”
Democrats are facing a Republican Party energized by 2010 gains that put the GOP in control of the General Assembly and the redistricting process. More favorable congressional and legislative district maps are expected to help Republicans in the fall.
Democrats are banking on the kind of turnout efforts that helped Obama carry the state in 2008. The White House choice of Charlotte for the national convention was, in part, to use the event to mobilize volunteers and voters in a newly minted swing state.
Some Democrats said that could make a difference.
“I think President Obama is going to come in here, particularly with the national convention, and re-ignite the enthusiasm,” said state Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr. of Durham.