'Rock 'n roll' presidential race holds 'heavyweight bout' in NC

Posted July 28, 2012 5:01 a.m. EDT
Updated July 28, 2012 11:00 p.m. EDT

— With 100 days left until Election Day, two heavy hitters in presidential politics held competing events in the Triangle Saturday, once more highlighting North Carolina's status as a battleground state.

"One hundred days, it's going to be rock 'n roll for the whole period," Peace College political science professor David McClennan said.

President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney are battling for about 6 to 8 percent of North Carolina voters who haven't made up their mind, McClennan said. That small margin could decide who wins the state.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has featured prominently in speculation about Romney's choice for a running mate, spoke to supporters in Raleigh and ice skated with them in Cary.

"It's a battleground state. You can't take anything for granted," he said. "It's going to be like a heavyweight bout here in North Carolina."

Pawlenty said that Romney's focus will be on jobs and the economy in North Carolina and across the country. He said Obama's 3½-year-old presidency has been full of broken promises.

"President Obama is all foam and no beer," Pawlenty said. "You got to have results. You just can't have speeches, and he hasn't delivered."

Actor-producer Don Cheadle, who has been filming "Iron Man 3" in the Triangle, said that Obama's work has just begun and that the president is more focused on restoring the middle class than his opponent.

Calling Romney "an outsourcer-in-chief who would put the wealthy before middle class families," Brad Woodhouse, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement that "Pawlenty failed to share any policy proposals or even new ideas with North Carolinians. ... Romney's tried-and-failed economic policies don't resonate with voters of the Tar Heel state."

Cheadle encouraged campaign volunteers at the Obama re-election campaign headquarters in downtown Raleigh.

"Clearly, you in this state, in this battleground state of N.C. can make a huge difference," he said. "I'm just glad to you guys here, and I'm glad to see you so enthusiastic."

More supporters of the two candidates will be making visits to the Tar Heel state. First lady Michelle Obama will be in Raleigh for a fundraising event Wednesday, and Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham will be in Fayetteville at the end of August.

Winning the presidency without North Carolina, which Obama took by less than 14,000 votes in 2008, is a hard road, McClennan said.

"North Carolina being an important Southern state and (having) a lot of electors, it will be a feather in the president's cap," he said.