In 2008, North Carolina proved to be a pleasant surprise for the Democrats and Barack Obama. A state that had gone Republican at the Presidential level since shortly after the Earth cooled, Obama parlayed goodwill accumulated by extensive primary campaigning into a one-point general election win.
This time around, depending on the nominee, the President looks to be in no worse than comparable shape, according to new numbers out today from PPP:
Public Policy Polling (PDF) (6/8-6/11. North Carolina Voters. May results in parentheses)
Barack Obama (D) 45 (46)
Mitt Romney (R) 44 (43)
Barack Obama (D) 47 (--)
Tim Pawlenty (R) 40 (--)
Barack Obama (D) 50 (50)
Newt Gingrich (R) 40 (42)
Barack Obama (D) 48 (--)
Herman Cain (R) 37 (--)
Barack Obama (D) 52 (52)
Sarah Palin (R) 38 (40)
President Obama's approval ratings there are still in net positive territory, though a tiny bit softer than last month (+2; 49-47, as opposed to 50-46 last month). One has to assume that if he can keep his job approval here in positive territory, he'll be at least a slight betting favorite here.
The 2012 presidential map is shaping up to be pretty damned interesting. The President's numbers in the South look pretty darned good, on balance. In addition to polling leads of recent vintage in North Carolina and Virginia, polls released in the past week have the President competitive in Georgia and South Carolina. However, other places that were more reliably Democratic in 2008 have shown a more variable outcome for the President (Pennsylvania comes to mind).
We are, of course, about three miles into the marathon, if that. There will be miles to go before we start counting to 270. But the President has to be pleased that, even as his national approval numbers are in the middling zone, he still has leads in critical states like this one.