Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have visited the swing state at least half a dozen times within the past two months. Trump alone has made five trips in that time, both before and after his hospitalization with the coronavirus.
Former Vice President Biden, whose campaign until recently had been largely virtual due to the pandemic, has visited North Carolina three times since February. Both campaigns are spending heavily in the state, where early voters are turning out in droves in the final weeks before the Nov. 3 election.
“Most paths to the White House go through North Carolina,” said Chris Cooper, professor of political science at Western Carolina University. “It’s particularly true for President Trump.”
The Trump campaign has signaled as much. In September, it shared with reporters seven potential paths to victory it envisioned at the time. Five of them included winning North Carolina.
Polls show Biden ahead of Trump nationally, though the race is tighter in the Tar Heel State and other key battlegrounds, including Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania. But as a must-win state for the president, a major player in Democrats’ push to regain the Senate and a microcosm of shifting demographics throughout the country, North Carolina could set the stage for a political shake-up with generational implications.
The state’s makeup and influence, Cooper said, place it “smack in the middle” of the 2020 election.
“It’s American politics, perfectly distilled, like an 18-year-old scotch,” he said. “If the Republicans don’t win North Carolina, it suggests the GOP stranglehold of the South is lessening and may be gone.”