Local Politics

McCain works to keep N.C. from turning blue

Analysts say John McCain's effort to counter heavy campaigning and advertising by Barack Obama is a signal that Republicans do not consider the state a sure thing this election.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Although North Carolina has backed the Republican candidate for president in the past eight elections, presumptive GOP nominee John McCain has committed to campaigning in the state.

Analysts say McCain's effort to counter heavy campaigning and advertising by presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama is a signal that the state may not be a sure thing this election.

"I think it's going to be a real dogfight from now until November in North Carolina," said David McClennan, a political science professor at Peace College.

A WRAL News poll released Thursday shows the candidates are in a virtual dead heat. McCain was supported by 45 percent of those surveyed, while Obama drew 42 percent. The margin of error in the poll was plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

"It's going to be decided in what the candidates do in the next three months," Republican strategist Carter Wrenn said, noting media campaigns and personal appearances will make the difference down the stretch.

Obama has been a steady TV presence in North Carolina with a barrage of advertisements.

Wrenn said he was initially skeptical about Obama's push in the state before McCain announced that he also would commit campaign time and dollars here.

"You could have the reaction, 'Well, he's got more money than sense,'" Wrenn said of Obama. "Then, you know, (McCain's) got a poll that's telling him the same thing Obama's poll says. McCain's announcement that he's going to run ads in North Carolina says we're in play."

Race remains a key factor in the polling. McCain pulls in 53 percent of the white vote, but only 2 percent of the black vote. Meanwhile, Obama trails with 32 percent of the decided white vote, but dominates the black electorate.

"Barack Obama as a candidate has some real issues in terms of his candidacy. White working-class in North Carolina and elsewhere is where he's got to work hard," McClennan said.

On the other side, Wrenn said McCain must shake the shadow of President George W. Bush's low approval ratings.

"In general, the economy and the war are both working against him," he said.


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