With Election Day less than three months away and , Palmetto State Republicans are ramping up efforts in North Carolina to get out the vote.
Drew Johnson, the GOP Chairman for Congressional District 5, is among those leading the effort. “We want to have a profound impact on the results in North Carolina,” Johnson said.
In 2008, the Tar Heel State went for Pres. Obama by the slimmest of margins. He won by 14,000 votes in a state where 4.3 million votes were cast. It was the first time North Carolina went to a Democrat in a presidential race since Jimmy Carter won in 1976.
Recent polls show that Romney has a slight edge in the state, though the lead is well within the margin of error. Most analysts agree it’s all but imperative that Romney win North Carolina to win the presidency. While North Carolina may not be quite as essential to victory for Obama, the president is also making a big play for it, as evidenced by the time he’s spent campaigning there and from the presence of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next month.
According to Johnson, the South Carolina GOP began its efforts in North Carolina in earnest last week, when several offices were opened. This Sunday, he’ll lead a contingent to Mooresville where Romney will appear as part of his bus tour.
Johnson said the GOP in both South and North Carolina have been working closely for the last month. Integral to that coordination have been the Palmetto Patriots, which allows Republicans from anywhere in the state to offer their services, whether it is through canvassing, phone calls or some other form of volunteering. “We’re at the Politics 101 phase right now,” Johnson said. “The more voters you can identify early on as being supporters, the better.”
Considering that Lindsey Graham, Jim DeMint and Nikki Haley are not up for re-election and that all five Congressional seats held by Republicans in South Carolina are safe, the state GOP is able to devote considerable resources to their neighbors to the north. “When I ran to represent the 5th district, winning back North Carolina was a major priority,” Johnson said.
As in most of the country, the economy is far and away the most important issue.
But the has ignited some Republicans who may have been cool to Romney, Johnson said. “That’s not just a conservative issue. It’s about the 1st Amendment,” he said. “It’s very much on evangelicals' minds, but on independents’ minds too.”
In 2008, Obama fared better than expected in the western part of North Carolina and won handily in metro areas like Charlotte’s Mecklenburg County to help eke out the state’s 15 electoral votes.
Johnson does not expect that to happen again in 2012. “I think (western N.C.) is shifting toward Romney pretty consistently, but a strong ground game needs to continue,” he said. “We just need to limit the losses in Mecklenburg.”
Speaking of Mecklenburg, the chairman of the county’s GOP will be at the Beacon Drive-In in Spartanburg on Sunday at 5 p.m. to “engage citizens of the Upstate SC to volunteer to work for the campaign of Gov. Mitt Romney for President” according to a press release.