WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (CNN) – Hillary Clinton's campaign Friday looked to lower expectations for the upcoming North Carolina primary, telling reporters that a Clinton win here on May 6 would be "the biggest upset of the century."
Ace Smith, the campaign's North Carolina state director, told a group of reporters at Wake Forest University that Obama "starts very strong here," an advantage owed to the state's Democratic cocktail of African-American voters and affluent, educated professionals concentrated around the Raleigh-Durham area.
With the heightened attention being paid to the primary, the state's Democratic voter rolls are swelling. Since January 1, nearly 110,000 North Carolinians have signed up to vote as Democrats in the semi-open primary, and nearly 69,000 have signed up as unaffiliated voters, according to the state board of elections.
In addition, more than 19,000 Republicans have switched parties and registered as either Democrat or unaffiliated in order to participate in the contest since the beginning of the year. Over 67,000 new African-American voters in North Carolina have registered over the same time period.
"Our measure of success is knocking this down to single digits," Smith said of the race, estimating that as many as 1.5 million people could vote in the contest, which will award 115 pledged delegates.
Asked if Clinton can win the primary, Smith said, "No, that would be the biggest upset of the century."
Earlier this year, Obama scored overwhelming victories in two bordering states with very similar demographics: South Carolina and Virginia.
Despite that, Smith was optimistic about the role unaffiliated voters – who can take part in the primary along with Democrats – will play in the contest.
He argued that Obama "has lost traction" among independent voters since the nomination fight began. Clinton and Obama ran roughly even among independent voters in the March 4 contests of Texas and Ohio.
Smith, who managed Clinton's operations in California and Texas, said the New York senator is looking to perform well in the eastern and western parts of the state, rural regions with small towns that have seen visits from former president Bill Clinton. The campaign has also run two television ads here.
Smith criticized Obama for hedging on whether or not he will agree to participate in another debate to be hosted in North Carolina, despite pressure from prominent local Democrats like Gov. Mike Easley and former Gov. Jim Hunt.
"He is looking to brush off the state of North Carolina," Smith said of Obama's reluctance to commit to a debate in the state.
– CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby
You know as millions do, that a bunch of empty words cannot make any change unless you know what to do.
Every superdelegate has seen
Hillary 's strong performance in every debate.
On the other hand, they have seen Obama performing poorly when he does not have his outline at hand ( that probably is prepared by his Preacher Mr. Wright) he is "just words" (but unexperienced ones)
Obama offended millions of Americans and even questioned core American values ( gun ownership and faith)
Do you need more reasons to support Hillary?
Hillary – President of the United States of America
We love you Hillary, words cannot deceive us from the fact that you are the best candidate to lead our nation!
Everything's finer in Carolina. Including the upset of the century.
she just has a wonderful town hall with Maya Angelo and she is really awesome. Some of you that are judging her only on what you hear on the news should go online and research her and learn the facts about Clinton. She really has a lot of great thing to offer this country. RISE HILLARY RISE as Maya Angelo just said..... We are behind you. Hillary has all the important issues covered. She is the one that can take us to the happy place again.
Haha isn't it funny that like 80% of educated people vote for Obama. Hmm yes...people with intelligence is an in depth understanding of the political arena know that Obama is a solid choice. People that actually look beyond 30 seconds of Hillarys negative commercials interupting their Everybody Loves Raymond marathon see that Clinton holds no chance in November. People really have to put down the remote and read a book.
The only reason Hillary is still in this race is because of the Rush Limbaugh Republicans going blue and voting for her just to make a complete disaster of the Democratic primary season...solid snake strategy but effective. Kudos.
Hillary, it's pretty much Pennsylvania in reverse.
But while you simply speculate about it, Obama has actually closed a 30 point gap to under 5.
Obama only losing Pennsylvania by single digits will be the biggest upset of this primary season.
When you actually shows signs of closing the gap in the North Carolina polls, rather than just fantasizing about it, get back to me.
Although I am an Obama hopefull this is sure getting tiring and wearing thin my patience. I wish someone would talk about the issue the us common folk are concerned with. I have yet to hear anyone speak about that. Is there anyone else that can run?
Hopefully, the people of NC will see through Hillary. She has only herself to blame for all the negative campaigns. Please Hillary and husband, just please go away--even his voice strikes a nerve. The Clinton era was nothing to be proud of. It brought abt NAFTA, Whitewater, Waco, the disaster with Elian. shall I say more.
As always, the deck is stacked against the Clintonistas. We're used to that. We're proud and don't ask for quarter. And we know we have the best candidate so we always have a chance.
Hillary, you can run but you can't hide.
No, because she still needs the delegate count. She doesn't have it, she won't get it, so she won't win.
Plus, Hillary, you're running behind in the overall game. Unlike Obama, you can't claim a victory from a narrow defeat because you need to seriously close the delegate gap, while he only needs to hold his own.
A small loss in North Carolina gets you nowhere. Even a small victory in North Carolina gets you nowhere.
No Ace Smith, you are incorrect sir. Barack Obama losing by single digits in PA would be the biggest upset this century.
Stop taking focus off of the upcoming PA election. As you see the double digit PA victory Hillary needs to continue her race start to slip away.
Didn't the PA Governor, a Clinton supporter say a Black man could not win the PA election?
As an AA I love Maya Angelou, but I'm still voting for Barack. So Hillary stop spinning your wheels, it won't work.
O.K for a debatebut this time on ' Hillary project' that will be ery interesting...
The biggest upset would be for Obama to win the general election. They don't have caucuses in the general. Little cardboard boxes make a big difference as shown in the other states with regular primaries.
Talk about a uniter....Barach has huge support from blacks and affluent educated professionals...two ends of the socio-econimic spectrum. Time for the blue collar workers to understand he has their best interests in mind as well.
Right now the obama backers are in the showroom....When they leave
they will have buyers remorse.
Vote wisely, and for the long term. Hillary all the way.....08...............
Wait what am I seeing it is as if CNN and Obama are already running away from Pennsylavania after all the millions they have spent there and have finally discovered that they cant win. Once again SHAME ON YOU CNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
My Mother switched from Republican to Democrat to vote for Obama.
My Father switched from Republican to Unaffiliated to vote for Obama.
My Husband and I are life long Democrats and are voting for Obama.
We are all voting early, perhaps tomorrow if the rain chases us out of the yard! That way I can take in my school aged kids to watch us vote.
the biggest upset of the century would probably be the giants beating the patriots, I mean COME ON... Hillary Clinton in North Carolina.... Now that will probably be the biggest LOSS of the century
Looking for clinton to be a leader is a sad reality, Satan is a leader also, he's just not the right leader. I will be glad when hill & bill get out of the political limelight after she lose to Obama.
hillery clinton is a turncoat democrat just like joe lieberman. she used her friends on channel 7 to try to win the debate. I dislike hill & bill & ugly chill. I never have anything nice to say about the arkansas hill billy's.
Skip the debate – cover all of NC and reach out to the people and don't may any mind to Hillary! She's done and gone! It's time for you to focus on Mc Cain! Ha, ha – Hillary doesn't have anyone to play with!!!
As the Ojays sing – "People all aboard - Love train! Don't need no TICKET!
We welcome North Carolina! Hello John Edwards!
Ha, ha, haaaaaaaaaaa – where are Hillary's supporters now?
Obama had another great week! Thanks Hillary – every time you go negative on him – you lift him higher!
Spin all you want Hillary. There are intelligent people in all states of this Union, and they will not be swayed by your version of "toughness."
You can stay in this race to collect money on the back of American people, but that's as far as you will go.
Hillary thinks she's smarter than everyone else. Therefore she deserves to be president. She has lied, misled, distorted, her way to the second runner-up and she will not finish first.
Her arms are too short to box with God.
NO to Chelsea in 2020.
TOO MUCH CLINTON BAGGAGE. No way she can shed all that.
Just say no.
I find it odd that CNN will post all over its website and other venues who the latest endorser of Obama is, yet you have to do your own journalistic searching to learn of Maya Angelou's recent endorsement of Hillary...honestly if Hillary Clinton is good enough for Maya Angelou she is good enough for me.
When will Americans realize that in the General Election the Republicans already have enough ammunition to destroy Obama, and if he thinks Hillary has been tough on him, just wait and if the Dems are naive enough to elect him as our candidate Obama will be running back to Illinois.