Kyle, Managing Editor at Sabato's Crystal Ball, Communications Director at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, "10 Maps That Explain the 2014 Midterms", May 5 2014, www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/10-maps-that-explain-the-2014-midterms-106347.html#.U6kMUvldW5o
Perhaps the key Senate race in the country is in North Carolina, a Republican-leaning swing state that both sides suspect could decide the Senate majority. Adjust your eyes when looking at the maps above, which feature, on the left, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan’s victory over Republican Elizabeth Dole in 2008 and, on the right, Republican Sen. Richard Burr’s victory over Democrat Elaine Marshall two years later. In this case, blue is for Republicans, and red is for Democrats. (These maps are from Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, a first-rate resource for election watchers.) Hagan took slightly more than 54 percent of the two-party vote against Dole in 2008, four points better than Obama performed on the same ballot. Two years later, incumbent Burr performed a bit better than Hagan in his reelection bid, winning 56 percent of the two-party vote. In each of these elections, the winner of the state also won Raleigh’s Wake County. Hagan took the county by 15 points in 2008; Burr won it by a point in 2010. Wake is North Carolina’s second-biggest county, but it consistently casts more votes than the biggest—Mecklenburg, home to Charlotte. Because Florida and Ohio, with their famous, key counties like Hillsborough (Tampa) and Hamilton (Cincinnati), don’t feature Senate races this year, Wake might very well be the key county this year. Hagan needs to win it again, and not just by a few points, which will be a challenge giventhe significant turnout problems Democrats face in North Carolina midterms.