RALEIGH (AP) — Mitt Romney has turned North Carolina back to the Republicans.
Romney won the state and its 15 electoral votes Tuesday, four years after President Barack Obama picked up a surprise win for the Democrats by about 14,000 votes. The GOP had won every presidential race in the state since 1980.
With most precincts reporting, Romney led by about 90,000 votes.
Obama tried hard to keep the state for the Democrats. He visited more than a dozen times, the last trip in September when the Democrats nominated him for a second term at their national convention in Charlotte.
But Republicans made significant gains in the 2010 midterm elections, and former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory got 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 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 between the ages of 18 and 29 and voters in rural areas.
Both parties had significant get-out-the-vote efforts in the state, sending thousands of volunteers in the campaign’s final weeks to make phone calls and knock on doors.
The nonpartisan North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation, which tracks state politics for business interests, counted 112 separate presidential campaign ads that aired in North Carolina since the May primary — 38 from the Obama campaign, 37 from Romney, 35 from Republican-leading outside groups and two from Democratic-leaning groups