Debbie George, 61, a yoga instructor in Charlotte, North Carolina, said she “desperately” wants Joe Biden to carry her battleground state and defeat President Donald Trump in the general election.
But from what George, a lifelong Democrat, said she has seen so far, Biden just isn’t doing enough to galvanize support among Democrats and independents to win the state.
“He needs to come. He needs to address North Carolinians. Some kind of socially distanced event, a small conference or roundtable,” she said. “These rehearsed speeches in front of no one are not cutting it.”
George’s concerns underscore the uphill battle Biden appears to have if he wants to win this Southern swing state and its 15 electoral votes in November.
Interviews with a number of North Carolina voters, current and former party officials, political strategists, pollsters and politics watchers paint a picture of a critical battleground that remains within the grasp of an unpopular president, even as the coronavirus continues to ravage the nation’s health and economy and protesters keep up calls for racial justice.
There are factors working in Biden’s favor. He remains extremely popular with the state’s large contingent of Black voters, a group he’ll need to carry with an Obama-era level of enthusiasm to win the state, and the number of absentee ballots (which the state started mailing out Friday) requested by registered Democrats has soared. Polls show he is also performing exceedingly well with women, suburbanites and suburban women (like George) — groups he’ll also need to overwhelmingly carry in order to win.
But to capitalize on those prospects, multiple sources said, he’ll need to do more than run ads and make small speeches streamed from Pennsylvania.
“There’s a worry he needs to be more visible,” Raleigh-based Democratic strategist Gary Pearce said.
A tight race in a hard state for Democratic presidential nominees
North Carolina was always going to be difficult for Biden: Barack Obama’s 2008 victory in the state is the only time a Democratic presidential candidate has carried it in the last 44 years. But given that both North Carolina and national polls show that voters feel Biden would handle the coronavirus pandemic better than Trump, many Democrats have high hopes that Biden can reprise that success.
With the general election entering a pivotal fall stretch, Biden has in recent days increased his travel schedule. After months of holding only virtual rallies and in-person events within a short drive of his home in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden last week delivered a speech in Pittsburgh and traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he met with the family of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot seven times in the back by Kenosha police.
Trump, in contrast, has had a far more robust travel schedule, holding regular visits to battleground states, including numerous stops in North Carolina in recent months.
Recent polling shows the race tightening in the state. The latest polling average kept by FiveThirtyEight shows a virtual tie, with Biden leading Trump by 48.6 percent to 46.8 percent — a smaller lead for Biden than in averages taken by the site of recent polling during the summer.