UPDATED: The Washington Post's political prognosticators are moving North Carolina into the "leans Romney" category, a rightward shift from the state's previous status a "toss up" swing state.
Chris Cillizza notes he struggled with how to categorize the state. "In our first electoral map predictions, we put it into the “toss up” category but the longer we looked at the states with which it shared that rating, the more it looked like the one state that didn’t belong. And so, we are moving North Carolina from “toss up” to “lean Romney” today," he wrote. (See map and more below.)
Cillizza's reasoning is multifaceted: President Barack Obama barely won in 2008; the state typically supports Republican presidential candidates; the state's unemployment rate; and the N.C. Democratic Party's recent scandals and weaknesses.
"Moving North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes means that there are now 237 electoral votes either solidly or leaning toward Obama and 206 electoral votes either solidly or leaning toward Romney. There are 95 electoral votes in the seven toss up states combined," he concludes.
The WaPo's thinking fits within the D.C. narrative from other pundits putting the state in Mitt Romney's GOP grasp, including the Rothenberg Political Report.
But Nate Cohn at the New Republic disagrees. He posted a rebuttal Friday on the magazine's website. It concludes: "In a state decided by turnout, Romney seems to hold a slight advantage as long as GOP enthusiasm is elevated and young voters remain disinterested. But North Carolina’s unique demographic profile all but ensures one of the closest races in the country. Given the difficulty of predicting turnout and the resilience of Obama's coalition, it would be unwise to assert that either side has an especially clear advantage, at least for now."
The WaPo's map is below and here's the full post.