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Republicans Gear Up To Thwart An Obama North Carolina Two-Peat

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, N.C, on Aug. 12.
Saul Loeb
AFP/Getty Images
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, N.C, on Aug. 12.

Blindsided is what North Carolina Republicans felt four years ago when President Obama won the state, though by the slightest of margins — a mere 14,177 votes out of 4.3 million cast.

Republicans admit they had taken as a given a 2008 North Carolina victory by Sen. John McCain. And who could blame them? No Democratic presidential candidate had won the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

But as McCain learned to his grief, history isn't always destiny. Obama's campaign had an effective strategy to win the state, and did.

This time around, Republican supporters of Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP presidential ticket, vow to keep Obama from achieving a North Carolina two-peat.

The Romney campaign is pouring resources into what most observers view as a must-win state for the Republican ticket.

"I've been doing races for a while in this state and I've never seen the money or resources the presidential campaign has given us," said Luther Snyder, a Republican political consultant in the state.

You don't have to be on the ground long in North Carolina before you see elements of the GOP effort in action.

It's partly the air war of TV commercials bombarding voters in the battleground states with campaign messages from Romney's team and their outside allies, groups like Americans for Prosperity.

National Journal reported that during a recent four-week period, Romney and his supporters outspent Obama and his allies by more than 2 to 1 in three of those weeks in battleground states, which include North Carolina.

It's also about the ground war, which includes exciting the GOP base, especially the volunteer foot soldiers whose efforts will be needed to get out the vote on Election Day.

Because polls generally suggest a North Carolina race that's tight as a tick, Republicans are seeking to increase their vote across the board, including places where Obama did well in 2008. Every vote gained is one denied to the president.

Thus, you get Ann Romney in July visiting the Guilford County Republican Party offices in what was formerly a furniture store in Greensboro. Obama won Guilford County handily by 19 percentage points, far exceeding Democratic Sen. John Kerry's 1-percentage-point win there in 2004 over President George W. Bush.

Romney supporters line up to tour the campaign bus.
Frank James / NPR
Romney supporters line up to tour the campaign bus.

You also get one of the customized buses in the Romney campaign fleet showing up at the same location the Thursday just before the Republican convention, an effort to create some buzz for the volunteers who were working the phones to identify potential Romney voters.

And it's not just the Romney campaign or the official party organizations that are in action. As USA Today recently reported, Americans for Prosperity, an outside group funded by the Koch brothers, is sending volunteers into the field to canvass for voters receptive to the GOP candidates and message.

"We're not taking it for granted. We're doing everything we can on the ground to get people involved, encouraged and to the polls," said Rachel Adams, communications director for Romney's North Carolina campaign.

When Adams joined Romney's North Carolina staff in June, the campaign had four locations. It's now up to 20 "victory offices," including Guilford, with plans for more. "Were in places where there's a big [Republican] base; we're in places where there isn't," Adams said.

"There are folks, they're undecided and they might change their minds, or they voted Democrat in 2008 and they're not going to now," Adams said.

"We're trying to touch a lot of different people," Adams said. "We're getting people on our phone banks who voted for Obama and they're not going to do it again. We're getting folks who weren't involved at all, that weren't politically active, period, and now feel it's the time, they have to get involved, there needs to be a change and are asking whatever they can do to help out. And then you always have the Republican voters who are excited and are trying to get all their friends who didn't vote to get in the door and vote."

Obama built much of his 2008 North Carolina success by energizing at least two groups of voters: African-Americans, who are about 22 percent of the state's registered voters, and younger voters.

Romney's chances of getting many black North Carolinians to choose him instead of Obama to any significant degree are decidedly minimal. Young voters are a different story.

A December 2011 analysis of voter registration data from North Carolina and Nevada by the Center for Information and Research On Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University indicated that in the years since 2008, Democrats lost some of the edge over Republicans with voters between 18 and 25.

That could be an opportunity for Republicans, represented by the 20-somethings working the phones at the Guilford GOP headquarters.

Mindy Moorman, 26, counts herself among the underemployed — she works part time at a beauty parlor. Coming from a Republican family (her father was a Charlotte politician) it wasn't a big leap for her to become a Romney volunteer.

"Because I'm a young female, I run into a lot of other people who maybe don't know as much about politics as I do but just assume they're a Democrat or a liberal because of the age. So I kind of wanted to get involved to kind of be the face to say, 'You don't have to be over 60 years old to be a Republican. You can still be young and have your own views and ideals,' " she said.

While she aligns with her party on fiscal issues, for instance, she doesn't on social issues, she said. "What you do in your own home is your business," she said.

For Will Moore, a 20-year old Guilford College student, his decision to volunteer for Romney represents a significant break. The child of African-American Democrats and a "long line of Democrats," as he put it, he decided the GOP better reflected his economic views.

Moore volunteered for the Romney campaign after being frustrated in his effort to find a summer job in Greensboro, about 45 minutes away from his home. Like many others in North Carolina, he blames the state's 9.6 percent jobless rate, higher than the national average, on Obama's failure to get the economy humming.

"When I couldn't find a job, I said, 'You know what? I'm going to make my trip all the way down to Greensboro worth it.' I came down here and made a couple of calls because if we don't change the policies it's going to be hard for businesses [to create] and individuals to find work. That's the engine [motivating] many people around here."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.

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