Battleground status doesn't bring presidential candidates to NC

Posted October 5, 2012 6:46 p.m. EDT
Updated October 6, 2012 7:36 a.m. EDT

— Although North Carolina is among a handful of states that could decide the presidential election, the candidates have made few appearances in the state in recent months.

Since the May primary, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have been in North Carolina only once each. Romney made stops in High Point and Mooresville, while Obama accepted his nomination for re-election at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last month.

Yet, President Obama and Romney often make several appearance in states like Ohio and Florida in a single day.

That's because North Carolina is considered a second-tier swing state, according to Democratic consultant Gary Pearce.

"Obama does not have to win North Carolina. If he wins here, he's going to have a blowout nationally – he'll probably get to 330 (to) 350 electoral votes," Pearce said. "But Romney has to win North Carolina to win the presidency."

Campaigns have four major tools – candidates, surrogates, ads and grassroots work – and Republican consultant Carter Wrenn said North Carolina is seeing plenty of the last three.

First lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have visited the state for the Democrats, as have Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Romney's sons for the Republicans.

"A candidate doesn't have to be here to get a message out," Wrenn said. "It helps, but they're working on messages 10 different ways."

The best way to judge a campaign's presence isn't candidate visits but the money it's spending, he said, noting that North Carolinians are seeing more political ads this season than ever before.

"They're spending $50 million here. They didn't do that because they think this state doesn't matter," he said.

Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, said the Romney campaign might be feeling confident enough about winning North Carolina to focus on pursuing the electoral votes in Ohio and Florida.

Florida has 29 electoral votes, while Ohio has 18 and North Carolina has 15.

"Those are the real, real true battleground states," Taylor said. "We can afford to expend resources here in terms of ads and organization, but our most valuable resource, our most finite resource – the candidate's time – needs to be spent elsewhere."

U.S. Sen. John McCain had a similar strategy in 2008, when he lost North Carolina to Obama by a slim margin.

Spokesmen for both the Obama and Romney campaigns in North Carolina said they feel they've done a good job getting their respective messages out. Neither could confirm their candidate would appear in the state before Election Day.