April 18th, 2008
07:05 PM ET
14 years ago

Clinton aide: NC win would be 'biggest upset of the century'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/18/art.clinton0419a.ap.jpg caption="Clinton aides are saying Obama has a major advantage in the state."] 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

Filed under: Hillary Clinton • North Carolina
soundoff (328 Responses)
  1. David Minneapolis

    Clintonistas, you mean like Sandanistas and Zapatistas? I love how the supporters of the status quo, the Washington insiders, try and position themselves as this 'insurrgent' campaign, that is fighting this uphill battle as the underdog. Bill Clinton was a two term President. This is his wife, a smart, articulate, conniving and back-stabbing opportunist who will as we have seen do anything, say anything to win, even if it hurts her party's nominee in the fall. There is something more cynical going on here, and perhaps you can see it if you try. The only way that the Clintons get back in the White House is if John McCain wins this election and they (Billary) run against his Vice-President (cause he's not going for two terms) in 2012. If Barack gets in he's going two terms for sure, and that means the end of the dynasty for the Clintons. They know that they are not going to get this nomination. Sam Nunn and other superdelegates are joining Obama's National Security Advisory Team. Google Sam Nunn if you want to know whose really powerful in this country from a political and corporate sense. The Clintons are thinking of themselves first and they are willing to risk four more years of Bush policies to get what they want...those nice evening strolls in the rose garden, with friends.

    April 18, 2008 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  2. Mark, B'ham., Al.

    Even though the small town rural minorities of North Carolina cling to their religion even during hard times, they will forgive Barack for his comments in S..F. and put him ahead of Hillary. There are not enough Angry White Males in North Carolina in the democratic party to save her.

    April 18, 2008 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  3. Ray from Gainesville VA

    Gary, you mentioned people voting for an unknown candidate...who the heck was George W. Bush, when he ran for office in 2000? I sure as heck didn't know a whole lot about him.

    April 18, 2008 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  4. Rick

    Wishful thanking is always a candidate for hope,expecting the unexpected. Obama will win North Carolina and the Presidency of the United States of America. Hillary should have remained positive. A person drowning will attempt to grasp a straw. It just want work.

    Rick N.C.

    April 18, 2008 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  5. bill pike

    poor little billary. she thought she just had to put her name of the ballet and the clinton name would get her elected, entitled to it and i do mean entitled. and to play the one who has to fight for it, the underdog. she started like 65% of the vote and along came the lies, the hate, the entitlement attitude, the NAFTA MILLIONS in billarys pocket while they preach against NAFTA????? poor little rich girl who sits in a foxhole tonight defending her country.

    signed: a vet and who's dad was so proud of his uniform he was buried in it last year, from a small town, white, archie bunket relatives, and i see another Lincoln from Illinois.

    April 18, 2008 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  6. Oscar

    The century is only 8 years old, moron.

    April 18, 2008 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    NC is not a big state, Hillary herself said that little states don't count, what's important is gib states, so why is she so wooried about her victory in NC since this little state doesn't count ?

    She'd better pull her forces in PA, that's the remaining biggest state she must win by a double digit since she started over there with a double lead over Obama.

    Why suddenly NC would be an amzing victory, the "Century Victory" for her when she sasy little states don't count.

    When John Edwards left the race, it wasn't because he wanted to leave, it was because he knew that he couldn't win anymore, the 2 remaining candidates were stronger.

    Hillary has to admit herself that Barack has energized the DC party much more than her, people are payning attention to him much more than her. For the god of our party, PA must be her last run, a small victory for her in PA should make her understand that forcing and continuing this race will only be to tear the party down, to lead the democrats to demonizing each other, instead of coming together to win in November with the help of Republicans and Independts.

    I know Hillary is smarter than that, I pray that she'll let her heart guide her path, instead of her personal ans self interestq.

    April 18, 2008 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  8. christopher

    Luke I can spell and I am bright enough to state the Hillary is full of lies. Smoke, mirrors and being negative does not win. How is my spelling ?

    April 18, 2008 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  9. Oscar

    The century is ONLY 8 years old... what is he talking about?

    April 18, 2008 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  10. Jacob S

    I fail to see the point in Clinton even staying in this anymore. She needs a huge, huge majority of pledged delegates in every remaining contest(as in she needs to do better than she's expected to do in PA in every remaining state) in order to catch up there, and she's all of 20-30 superdelegates ahead. She's lucky nowadays to get 2 superdelegates in a week while Obama gets a good 10 or so in that same timeframe. I think that if superdelegates heed Dean's call to decide sooner rather than later, if Obama wins even 35-40% of them the contest is his to lose. At this point he needs less than 50% of the remaining delegates to win while Hillary needs over 60%, and with every superdelegate that switches from her to uncommitted or Obama and every contest where she loses, that 60% goes up while Obama's 40something % goes down.

    April 18, 2008 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  11. jp/michigan

    North Caroline if you really want to vote for Obama , fine. Before you do though, have you really checked him out. Read: humanevents.com articles by John Batchelor regarding Obama relationships with the Chicago bunch.

    April 18, 2008 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  12. Jane

    Hillary is going to get trounced in NC. She is deluding herself. Barack Obama will win by double digits like he did in Mississippi and Wyoming. Hillary needs to face reality very soon. She sounds scary.

    April 18, 2008 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  13. nate

    Its all about Indiana at this point. Pa for her, NC for him. If he wins Indy its over. If she does, on we go...

    April 18, 2008 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  14. Sol

    Watch out folks! Hillary is shifting the goal post in case she looses Pen.

    April 18, 2008 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  15. Peter in Canada

    Yes Indeed!
    A debate in NC would be a grand idea!
    Bill and Chelsea Clinton could be the moderators!
    They could entertain questions from random, typical Americans...like Vernon Jordan....like Lanny Davis...like Paul Begala!

    April 18, 2008 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  16. Jane

    Ace Smith, what a loon. Barack Obama has campaigned heavier and talked to more people in NC and therefore has much larger support than Hillary could ever hope for. Ace Smith sounds like a desperate man.

    April 18, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  17. Grif

    Travesty! Be it on your shoulder's... Then try and dust it off, like the idiot Obama... A LIve of saving for white Folk, Wasted on the Black's. That think Religion is Food....

    April 18, 2008 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  18. Ross in MD

    Well George Bush won North Carolina. Since Hillary has the same views, maybe they'll go for her too.

    Or maybe they'll want a change. We'll see...

    April 18, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  19. typical whitey

    Hey, Obama supporters. You don't know this (unless you are one of the bullies) but Obama supporters have stolen several states with their hate and intimidation tactics. You can deny it all you want but those of you who have attended Caucuses know they are NOT democratic to say the least. Rules were broken, doors locked and Hillary supporters getting spat upon. NASTY group you are. That is precisely why this independent will vote for McCain over Obama. No, not out of spite but because McCain is a true hero and true American to the blood. This democratic primary season has been a disgrace.
    And Fresh Flower (that sounds like an intelligent person) – there are smart, educated people for each and every candidate. Too bad you are so blinded to think all Hillary supporters are dumb and Obama supporters are smart. Grow up.

    April 18, 2008 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  20. Peg

    Hillary PEOPLE, Take one primary at a time, OK? Go ahead and win Pennsylvania, enjoy the win and move on to lose in N.C. That's just the way it is meant to be. An upset, is probably not in the cards..

    Why would Obama want to put himself through that tortuous debate process again? Number 1, it was stupid, the questions were useless, the result was not positive for really, either of the candidates OR the party and it just keeps helping the Republicans.

    They have done enough debates, Obama just needs to campaign and be out there for people to get to know. Hillary is the only one who has the potential to benefit from any further debates. So give it up!

    April 18, 2008 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  21. Elizabeth

    God Bless the wonderful people in North Carolina.

    Make us proud. Vote Barack Obama and put an end tothis. Hillary can't tell the truth and she is deceitful and has an a 58% dishonet and untrustworthy rating. We must have change and someone to help the people with gasoline prices, jobs, the housing market and taxes.

    Another Reputlican voting for Barack Obama and proud of it and proud of him! I'm making another donation to help Barack in NC.

    Fort Worth, TEXAS

    April 18, 2008 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  22. John

    Attention Obama supporters. The Titanic is boarding. Reserve your deck chair now.

    April 18, 2008 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  23. mary

    Pennsylvania loss of less than 10 points for Barack would be win of the Century. He, however, will not stoop to negative campaigning, thus respecting our intelligence for figuring out what's really happening. Thank you, Barack. Looking forward to a great four years.

    April 18, 2008 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  24. Dori in AZ

    Why is it they keep telling us that "affluent, educated professionals" tend to vote for Obama, and not for Clinton, like that's a bad thing? Hillary not being able to draw that group seems to be a negative for her, as they represent a sizable segment of the American public.

    Some polls separate out African-American voters as an entity based entirely on race, not taking into account that many are affluent, educated professionals. The Clintons have prided themselves on their ability to reach minority voters in all economic ranges. If that's true, African-American voters in North Carolina should also be within reach.

    Sometimes this campaign reminds me of a civil war. Enough of the divide and conquer mentality. We need to come together to find solutions to the very real and disturbing issues in our country while we still can. We need a leader of substance.

    Obama 2008! Si se puede!

    April 18, 2008 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  25. Bubba

    Can we afford a pathological liar in the WH? Would she lie to world leaders? Can we afford to take the chance? She has intentionally lied to America and, when caught, just blew it off. Can we afford to have a pathological liar in the WH? This is the biggest issue with Hillary....she simply cannot be trusted.

    April 18, 2008 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
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