NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (AP/WECT) - New Hanover County has been named by the Associated Press as one of 10 bellwether counties across the country. All 10 counties are in battleground states that are expected to decide Tuesday's presidential election.
They're good starting points to get a sense how well the candidates' strategies are working out. The counties are in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania - all in the Eastern time zone, where polls close the earliest. Results there may provide some early answers on Tuesday night about how the White House race is unfolding.
These counties were picked on the basis of conversations with Republicans and Democrats, as well as AP's analysis.
New Hanover County was chosen because Republicans and Democrats are split almost evenly in Wilmington and the surrounding area, and the number of independents registered here has risen so much since the last presidential election that they now outnumber both parties.
President Obama lost here by 2 percentage points here in 2008, and slipped to a 5 point loss against Mitt Romney in 2012. The Associated Press says the margin Tuesday in New Hanover county could signal how independents are breaking statewide and beyond North Carolina.
It also helps explain why both campaigns have spent a lot of time in the Wilmington area over the last several months.
The Associated Press identified two other bellwether counties in North Carolina: Wake County, which previously went for Obama by 11 percentage points and has over 700 thousand voters, and Watauga County, home of Boone and Appalachian State University. It has thousands of students which could bode well for Clinton, but also has many white, lower income households which could give Trump an opening.