Democrats hope Obama ads boost local votes

Turn on the television in York County these days, and it won't take long for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama to show up in your living room.

Obama's campaign has spent millions on TV commercials in Charlotte and across North Carolina, but his message is reaching homes well beyond the Queen City.

York County and other areas around the state line are part of the Charlotte media market, meaning voters here see Obama's commercials, too. Local Democrats are hoping for a spillover effect that results in more votes for their candidates.

"It will change the dynamics in York County," said coroner candidate Pete Skidmore. "You could see a huge shift. Larger numbers will get us over the hump, I think, in a predominately Republican county."

Republicans acknowledge the potential for an Obama effect. But they dispute the idea that it will dictate races lower on the ballot.

"That doesn't necessarily mean they're going to vote straight down the line," said York County Solicitor and Republican Kevin Brackett, who faces Democrat Phil Jamieson. "I have a great number of supporters who are very fiercely supportive of Mr. Obama. They're going to ask, 'Who's going to serve my interests in this particular race?'"

A similar view came from Republican candidate Tom Hardin, running for the York County Council in District 4, which includes some heavily Democratic pockets in south Rock Hill.

"I've had many people tell me they're not going to vote straight ticket," Hardin said. "I've had three (Democrats) call me today and say they were going to cross over."

Signs point to high turnout

In the week ending Oct. 4, Obama outspent McCain on TV advertising by roughly 8-1 in North Carolina, according to the Wisconsin Advertising Project. McCain and his party spent $148,000 compared with Obama's more than $1.2 million, the group found.

The advertising blitz could ultimately drive up turnout on both sides. In York County, more than 11,000 people have already turned in requests for absentee ballots -- 9 percent of the county's overall electorate of 121,000.

More than 6,600 new voters have registered in the county since July, up 44 percent over the same time preceding the presidential election in 2004.

If Democratic candidates fare well next week, Obama's coattails might be partly responsible, said Scott Huffmon, a political scientist at Winthrop University.

"Because of the bleedover you're likely to see a stronger level of support for Obama than we might otherwise," Huffmon said. "If we got none of that bleedover, a county like York would definitely be strongly McCain."

But the potential for a so-called Obama effect can be overstated, Huffmon cautions. He points out that local races are determined by a variety of unique factors, from a candidate's name recognition to a hot issue stirring emotions in a particular district.

The common theme this year might be the "change" mantra popularized by Obama's campaign, said County Council hopeful Eddie Lee of York.

"People will vote who have never participated before," he said. "They're engaged."