Local Politics

N.C. battle lines drawn in run-up to election

Recent polls show voter dissatisfaction with the national economy is boosting Barack Obama's candidacy in North Carolina, a state that hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1976.

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John McCain, Barack Obama
RALEIGH, N.C. — With less than five weeks until the presidential election, Democrats continue to pour resources into North Carolina in an effort to win the state for the first time in 32 years.

Barack Obama will make his third visit to the state in recent weeks when he attends a Sunday rally in Asheville, and the campaign continues to open offices in smaller towns like Fuquay-Varina.

Meanwhile, Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin plans to attend a Tuesday rally in Greenville, marking the first visit by her or running mate John McCain this fall.

"You've only got two resources to spend in a campaign – you've got time and money," Democratic consultant Gary Pearce said. "They don't come here – both sides – unless they really think this is a competitive state. The Democrats obviously think we can win it – we can steal one from the Republicans – and the Republican campaign thinks, 'We can't lose North Carolina.'"

Recent polls show voter dissatisfaction with the national economy is boosting Obama's candidacy in North Carolina.

A WRAL News poll released Thursday gave him a 50 to 47 percent edge over Republican John McCain, with most of those surveyed saying the economy is bad and getting worse.

In an Elon University poll released Friday, twice as many people blamed Republicans for current economic problems as said Democrats were at fault. Both parties garnered 39 percent support in the poll, with 17 percent still undecided.

"Maybe it is a winnable state," Pearce said.

McCain's decision Thursday to pull staff and money out of Michigan, conceding to Obama what had been considered a battleground state, could result in more emphasis on North Carolina in the coming weeks, he said.

"A lot can change in a month, but the fact that (the candidates are) here in October ... says everything you need to know about this race," he said.

Unlike Michigan, Republicans said they have no intention of giving up on North Carolina.

"We don't ever take anything for granted. That is a great way to lose an election," said Linda Daves, chairwoman of the North Carolina Republican Party.

The news of Palin's visit has energized the GOP statewide, Daves said.

"We literally have lines of volunteers waiting to come in and get in the door of some of our campaign headquarters, waiting to do some work," she said. "It shows our commitment and our seriousness to not allow Barack Obama to come in and really think that he can own North Carolina."

Pearce said making McCain and Palin play defense to shore up support in North Carolina will help Obama elsewhere, even if he doesn't eventually carry the state.

"If he wins North Carolina, he's going to win a big landslide nationally. If he comes close in North Carolina, that's a good sign nationally. So right now, the trend looks awfully good for Obama and the Democrats," he said.

Daves said she expects McCain to regain momentum over the next two weeks as he and Obama debate twice more.

"I think you're going to find, when you sit the two candidates down, people are going to say, 'Let's listen' and, once again. 'We see the difference between rhetoric and experience,'" she said.


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