Democrats are viewing North Carolina as a major battleground state in 2024, with many viewing it as a potential flip opportunity in the year’s presidential election.
North Carolina has been a relatively close contest for years, with several candidates on both state and federal levels winning by just a few percentage points. While Democrats have found more success with the governor’s race, Republicans more frequently win federal contests.
However, members of both parties believe that North Carolina will be in play next year, and Democrats may make their most concerted effort in recent years to win the election there.
“I do expect a lot more attention here than in the past, not to say we didn’t get attention in the past, but it’s probably going to be much more intense in 2024,” said North Carolina-based Democratic strategist Douglas Wilson.
North Carolina was won by President Obama in 2008 but swung for Republicans in the 2012, 2016 and 2020 presidential races, but by no more than by a few points.
Wilson said he believes the state is “trending purple” because of the population growth in its cities but said obstacles from the past have hurt Democrats’ chances, and present issues could make winning the state more difficult, saying that presidential campaigns, especially if an incumbent is running for reelection, not unlike President Biden, typically only begin “setting up shop” in the spring or summer of an election year.
“In North Carolina, you need to start talking to voters early, and you need to have folks on the ground early,” Wilson said.
Wilson said that when Obama won the state in 2008, he developed an effective campaign infrastructure in North Carolina during the primaries, winning the state against Hillary Clinton. He went on to beat Republican John McCain by about 0.3 points.
Wilson believes that Biden should be developing a presence in the state now.
Doug Heye, a Republican strategist with experience in North Carolina campaigns, acknowledged that Obama caught “everybody by surprise” while state and national Republicans were “asleep at the switch” because they did not expect it to be competitive.
He said growth in areas like Charlotte and Raleigh means Republicans cannot take the state for granted anymore.
Heye said that Obama’s victory was seen as a “fluke” at the time, but North Carolina was the second-closest state in 2012 and stayed close in 2016 and 2020 — in the latter, Biden lost to then-President Trump by less than 1.5 points.
“The lesson or the takeaway should be this is going to be a close state and should not be taken for granted,” he said. “In the state, I think people get that. Nationally, they don’t get it at all.”
Heye did express concern about the likely Republican candidates at the federal level, with former President Donald Trump, and the governor’s race, with Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.
Trump isn’t known to be the most moderate candidate, and Robinson has made numerous derogatory comments online criticizing Jews, Muslims, transgender people and Black people who support Democrats. Some of those comments include that Muslims are “invaders,” that Obama is a “worthless anti-American atheist” and that those who “support this mass delusion called transgenderism” are trying to “turn God’s creation backwards and make it into a sickening image of rebellion to glorify Satan.”
The Biden campaign said in a memo released earlier this year that it will look to expand Democrats’ electoral map to include North Carolina. A campaign spokesperson told the Washington Post in May that the campaign expects the state to be competitive and will invest “early and accordingly.”
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