RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Mitt Romney turned North Carolina back to the Republicans on Tuesday, winning the state and its 15 electoral votes four years after President Barack Obama picked up a surprise win for the Democrats.
With most precincts reporting, Romney was leading by about 96,000 votes out of about 4.5 million cast. Obama won the state in 2008 by about 14,000 votes. The GOP had won every presidential race in the state since 1980.
Obama tried hard to keep the state for the Democrats, holding his convention in Charlotte and visiting the state more than a dozen times, most recently in September. Former President Bill Clinton stumped for Obama in Raleigh on Sunday.
But Republicans made significant gains in the 2010 midterm elections, and Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue decided not to run again rather than face a rematch against Republican Pat McCrory, the popular ex-mayor of Charlotte. McCrory received nearly 55 percent of the vote Tuesday to become the first Republican to win the governor's race in 20 years.
With the margin so thin, Romney only had to make small gains to turn North Carolina red again. He got them among moderates. Two out of five self-identified moderates voted for the Republican, an improvement over Republican John McCain's totals in 2008, according to the results of exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks.
Exit polls also showed Obama lost votes among those ages 18 to 29 and among voters in rural areas.