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An excellent New York Times article today analyzed how 2008 has changed politics forever. And nowhere more than North Carolina. Let us count the ways:

BATTLEGROUND: First the primary. When Obama won North Carolina, the late Tim Russert declared that he had won the nomination. Now we’ve had the heady experience of being one of the handful of states that matter in November. And will be for years to come.

But what are the unintended consequences? The campaigns for Governor and Senator – let alone down-ballot races – were starved for airtime and oxygen. Normally, Democratic gubernatorial candidates run 10-12 points ahead of the presidential candidate. This year, Bev Perdue struggled to run even.

RACE: The year Jesse Helms died, a black man will either carry or come close to carrying North Carolina. Now, racial politics has not left us. Witness Sheriff Bissell of Johnston County. But the tide is turning. Our children and grandchildren are less racist than our parents and grandparents.

EARLY VOTING: Elections no longer happen on one day. The old tradition of heading to the polling place at your chosen time – then breakfast or lunch at your chosen place – is fading. The Obama campaign realized this simple fact – and maximized it. Just as they won the nomination in large part because, unlike the Clinton campaign, they realized that caucus states counted.

WEB OBSESSION: How many people do you know who are hooked on following politics on line? It’s like porn for nerds. It has even given two political dinosaurs like Carter and me new life.

OUTSIDERS: The biggest factor in the Senate race – aside from the national tide – was Chuck Shumer and the DSCC’s assault on Liddy Dole. Outside groups played a big role for both sides in the governor’s race. This happens when you’re a big swing state.

GROUND GAME: When my old boss Jim Hunt started in politics, he was the master of precinct organization. He used index cars to track voters. He had “keys” in all 100 counties. He even wrote the state party manual on the subject. Then TV ads made precinct organization seemingly obsolete. Now the Internet and microtargeting have revived precinct organization. Nobody is happier than Hunt. You should see how he organized Wilson County this year.

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