Local Politics

Political experts: Frequent visits could have given Trump edge in North Carolina election

Posted November 4, 2020 3:30 p.m. EST
Updated November 4, 2020 11:08 p.m. EST

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden continue to be locked in a tight race in North Carolina that is still too close to call.

Trump has a slight lead, but more than 100,000 mail-in ballots are yet to be counted.

While Biden far outspent Trump on advertising in North Carolina during the 2020 election season and hosted limited in-person events because of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump, on the other hand, hosted large rallies.

In the two weeks leading up to Election Day, Trump hosted three rallies in North Carolina -- each drawing thousands.

Some political observers said those rallies helped Trump gain in edge in the state.

Western Carolina political science professor Chris Cooper said the time the president spent in person in North Carolina mattered greatly.

"He put his most valuable resource into the Tar Heel state, which is his time, right? Candidates can always raise more money, they can hire more staff, but one thing you can't make more of is time -- if you're Donald Trump," explained Cooper.

Cooper said Trump's rallies weren't aimed at appealing to swing voters.

"Trump is running not a persuasion campaign, but a mobilization campaign. He's not really trying to get undecided voters. He's trying to get everybody who supports him to get off their couch, get to a polling place and cast their vote," he added.

Even though Biden choose to flood the airwaves, Trump still managed to consistently stay on the airwaves too.

"I think Donald Trump emerges as the king of earned media," said Cooper. "He's able to get media coverage by drawing attention to himself and not paying for airwaves.”

But, Cooper said it wouldn't have made sense for Biden to campaign the same way Trump did.

"It would not have been authentic for Biden to hold these huge rallies -- he's not that type of political candidate," said Cooper.

It was a campaign that former Wake County Republican Party Chairman Charles Hellwig said worked.

"It got our ground game really running: volunteers knocking on doors is how you win elections, at least close elections, and I think the rallies were part of really firing that base up who went and knocked on doors," said Hellwig.

He also stated that North Carolinians would "much rather learn about a person from a neighbor or a volunteer than just seeing a TV commercial or radio ad."

Hellwig said the in-person rallies highlighted the enthusiasm for Trump in a way Biden's campaign couldn't for its candidate.

"When it's just, 'We got to vote for Biden because we don't like Trump,' that doesn't help you get out and turn over any swing voters," he added.

Cooper and Hellwig said they expected a razor thin outcome in North Carolina, but said Trump’s repeated stops and rallies do give him the overall edge.

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