RALEIGH, N.C. — Thursday, the city of Raleigh is preparing for its second Secret Service invasion of the week.
The Democratic presidential ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards is coming to town Saturday. An afternoon rally is scheduled at North Carolina State University.
Tickets were given away online Thursday. They were free, but security will be tight, so everyone must have a ticket.
Kerry and Edwards come to Raleigh three days after President George W. Bush, who raised more than $2 million for the GOP at a fund-raiser in North Raleigh Thursday.
With appearances set, and political ads by both sides ready to air in North Carolina for the first time since 2000, this is a new role for our state in presidential politics.
There is a feeling that a battle is brewing. But there also is history; it has been 28 years since a Democrat carried this state in a presidential election.
"This is a battleground state," said Scott Falmlen, of the N.C. Democratic Party.
Said Jack Hawke, former chair of the N.C. Republican Party: "I think it'll be considered a battleground state. I think the Democrats will sell it as a battleground state. The volunteers and people that get excited about politics will get out and cheer."
Falmlen said that, with 15 electoral votes at stake, North Carolina will get a lot of attention this year. Political analyst Robin Dorff agreed.
"You're likely to see more events," Dorff said. "We won't be as ignored as we were in 2000."
To give an example of what happens in a major swing state, Bush and Al Gore each campaigned in Michigan about a dozen times each leading up to the 2000 election. They each visited North Carolina twice, and one of those stops was a vacation stop for Gore.
Even though there may be more events this time around, Dorff said he does not anticipate a real battle. He does not think the Bush-Cheney ticket is vulnerable here.
Dorff does, however, see North Carolina as the best backdrop for Edwards to tell his story.
"Edwards is a local North Carolinian," he said. "That will bring him back. It will bring the ticket here some."