Local Politics

Campaign appearances underscore N.C.'s importance

Posted October 6, 2008 6:28 p.m. EDT
Updated October 6, 2008 7:24 p.m. EDT

— Democrat Barack Obama's campaign has had an almost weekly presence in North Carolina for the past month, and the campaign of Republican John McCain will have its first public visit to the state since May on Tuesday.

Political observers say the frequent attention from the candidates and their surrogates demonstrate the importance North Carolina is gaining in the presidential election.

"It's very much a toss up. Clearly, we're in battleground status," said Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University.

Recent polls have shown Obama has a slight edge over McCain, but the race remains too close to call.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, is scheduled to attend a Greenville  rally Tuesday, and GOP officials said her appearance is energizing supporters.

"John McCain has done a lot of service for the country," said Tony Davenport, a veteran from Roxboro, who picked up McCain-Palin campaign signs Monday.

Obama's primary battle with Hillary Clinton generating early momentum for the eventual winner, Taylor said.

"Sen. Obama had a ready-made organization that he could switch back on for the general election," he said.

On Monday, Democrats called on some big North Carolina names to rally support for Obama. Former Gov. Jim Hunt, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, state Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand and Congressmen David Price, Bob Etheridge, Brad Miller and G.K. Butterfield attended a "Leaders for Change" event at the State Farmers Market.

"You don't usually see a lot of us out in front of a presidential candidate. We all feel that (Obama's election) would mean a lot for North Carolina," Rand said.

"It would be huge. North Carolina hasn't been a blue state since Jimmy Carter," Etheridge said, recalling the 1976 election that was the last time the state backed a Democrat for president.

GOP officials said McCain may also visit the state in the next few weeks, but they said volunteers can be just as effective in building support for the ticket.

"I know we've done this before and we've done it well, and we're trying to do the same things bigger and better this time," said Brent Woodcox, spokesman for the state Republican Party.

Kim Davenport of Roxboro said she feels the excitement building in both parties.

"I think it's awakening America; it's getting people involved. What's going on in our nation is a good thing," she said.