Posted by: lcowie | October 16, 2008

Sarah Palin

Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin swings by Elon University

North Carolina remains swing state three weeks before election

by Lesley Cowie

Sarah Palin discusses Sen. John McCain's plans for the Republican Party if elected.

Sarah Palin discusses Sen. John McCain's plan once elected.

With the presidential election three weeks away, Gov. Sarah Palin knows the importance of every vote, especially in North Carolina. The Republican vice presidential candidate made two appearances Thursday, one in Greensboro and one at Elon University, in an attempt to swing votes in Sen. John McCain’s direction.

North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad has seen its share of political speakers in the last year. Most of these politicians and speakers have been from the Democratic Party.

On April 23, former President Bill Clinton visited Elon to give a speech in support of his wife, Hillary, former Democratic presidential candidate. Hillary then held a rally in High Point nearly two weeks later.

Following the road to change

According to The News & Observer, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama has made almost 20 campaign trips to North Carolina since Nov. 2007. The Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, has made fewer than five public appearances in the state but will make an appearance in Concord this weekend.

Since Obama’s nomination, the Democratic Party has raised national awareness of North Carolina’s battleground status. In a recent article in The Charlotte Observer, Rob Christensen, a columnist for The News & Observer, described some of the efforts put forth by the Democratic Party.

Last spring, Christensen said, the Obama campaign started a voter registration drive in North Carolina. This is likely to benefit the Democrats in the presidential race, as well as in smaller races in the state, he said.

According to Christensen, the number of new Democratic voters has outpaced the number of new Republican voters by an 8-to-1 ratio.

Christensen went on to say that the Obama campaign opened 16 offices, hired 150-200 staffers, and spent at least $2.5 million on TV ads since the North Carolina primary.

The map above illustrates the locations for which the presidential and vice presidential candidates have campaigned in NC. In some cases, mostly regarding Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro, one Obama icon represents multiple visits. Information courtesy of The News & Observer. Click on the image for a larger view.

The map above illustrates the locations for which the presidential and vice presidential candidates have campaigned in NC. In some cases, mostly regarding Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro, one Obama icon represents multiple visits. Illustration by Lesley Cowie. Information courtesy of The News & Observer. Click on the image for a larger view.

Changing from red to blue?

Obama’s multiple trips to North Carolina demonstrate his ongoing hope and persistence of winning the state. Junior Daniel Shutt, president of the College Democrats at Elon, has said that for the first time in three decades, North Carolina is “up for grabs.”

“The state is rapidly changing and voters are looking for new leadership in Washington,” Shutt said. “The nature of the electoral map this year has meant that Democrats are playing more offense, spending time in traditionally red states. Republicans, meanwhile, are having to try and defend their territory while also competing in perennial swing states like Ohio and Florida.”

To pass the time, Palin supporters played cards, specially issued for the 2008 election.

To pass the time, Palin supporters play cards, specially issued for the 2008 election.

Sophomore Daniel Harwell, president of Elon’s National Campaign for Political & Civic Engagement, believes Obama’s visits to North Carolina are important and effective because voters want to see the person they will be sending to the White House.

“The Democratic nominee will always be the underdog to receive North Carolina’s Electoral College votes,” Harwell said. “In the past two elections, President Bush won North Carolina by over twelve points, so Democrats have to work extremely hard to change that in 2008.”

These facts and sentiments have kept North Carolina a swing state at this point in the election. According to Harwell, Palin’s speech probably will not change too many peoples’ votes unless she says something “extremely profound.”

Dr. George Taylor, a political science professor at Elon, agreed with Harwell’s latter remarks. He believes that Palin’s audience Thursday has already made up their minds.

The issue at stake is where voters minds are. In terms of campaign visits, the Democratic Party leads the way in North Carolina. It will be up to voters to decide how effective these visits have been.

“The Democrats are really thinking they have a chance in NC, and it has taken the Republicans until this time to realize it,” Taylor said.

Awaiting Palin's arrival, supporters hide from the heat using their signs.

Awaiting Palin's arrival, supporters hide from the heat using their signs.

Avoiding NC’s battleground war

Up to this point, the Republican Party has made fewer than 10 trips to North Carolina. Junior Claire Derreberry, a member of the College Republicans at Elon, defends this comparison by noting North Carolina’s history of Republican support.

The Republicans, Derreberry said, probably believe they are going to win North Carolina based on past elections. The Democrats have to spend more time in North Carolina to sway undecided votes, she added.

“They [The Republicans] are doing the same thing as Democrats in North Carolina and going to other states to get swing votes,” she said. “[However,] I think Palin’s speeches will show North Carolina voters that Republicans are interested in North Carolinians and don’t necessarily take their votes for granted. They know North Carolina is an important state and want to show their commitment to reaching out to us.”

Palin’s visit to the Triad is only her second appearance in North Carolina. Her Oct. 2 debut took place at East Carolina University in Greenville.

In order to attend Palin’s speech, Elon community members had to obtain a free ticket from the Koury Athletic Center. The event took place at Latham Baseball Park.

Although Palin was scheduled to speak at 3 pm, gates opened to the public at noon. Hank Williams Jr. opened the ceremony with a song he wrote for the McCain-Palin campaign.

For additional coverage of Palin’s trip to Elon, visit The Pendulum online.

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