Based on Election Day votes, John McCain would have easily defeated Barack Obama in 2008 in North Carolina. But Nov. 6 isn't all that counts here.
From Oct. 18 through Nov. 3, voters can cast an early ballot or even register and then vote. But the election and the polls are close in the battleground state of North Carolina, so both parties are in serious campaign mode here. One-time Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum was stumping for Mitt Romney early Thursday morning at the campaign’s Charlotte Victory Office. Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is spending so much time in North Carolina that she may be picking up a southern accent.
The Florida congresswoman is not missing much by staying on the road and out of Washington. On Wednesday, Wasserman Schultz stopped by the Uptown Organizing for America office to encourage the volunteers who make phone calls, canvass and do everything they can to keep North Carolina blue. Everyone there was feeling optimistic after President Obama’s spirited defense of his policies at Tuesday night’s debate. (Wasserman Schultz had stopped in North Carolina with the Obama campaign’s “Gotta Vote” bus on Tuesday, then made a quick trip to New York for the debate before returning here.)
On Wednesday, she referenced Obama’s response to a debate-night question on pay equity for women, a much-prized voting bloc in the election.
“He made sure that the first bill he passed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act." Romney, she said, was “asked again point blank [Tuesday night] whether he would have signed it into law if he were president... and his answer was, 'well, I had a binder full of women.’” She was referencing Romney’s description of his search for qualified women to work on his team when he was Massachusetts governor. The phrase has since taken on a comedic life of its own.
From now on, “Every day is Election Day in North Carolina,” she said to volunteers including Charity Frederick, 27, of Charlotte, who has been working the front desk at the Uptown office three times a week. “I’m passionate about Barack Obama’s message,” she told me on Wednesday. “I don’t think the country should be run like a business.” She said it should be governed “to help everybody get to a better place.”
Not that Republicans are ceding the early vote to Democrats. Unlike in 2008, they won’t be caught by surprise. That was the message of a line-up of state and local Republican candidates and officials who spoke before Santorum’s turn at the microphone on Thursday. Ninth District congressional hopeful Robert Pittenger, looking to replace Sue Myrick, compared Santorum to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; Richard Hudson, challenging U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell, introduced Santorum and heralded a great American comeback.
Santorum, like Wasserman Schultz, also talked about a debate, not Tuesday night’s but the first meeting between Obama and Romney in the election. “It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago when Mitt Romney stepped on that stage in Denver that I started to feel great again about America,” Santorum said. “He was inspired.”
Santorum acknowledged the president’s 2008 early voting edge. “If Romney can show that same energy and enthusiasm, and match or even exceed President Obama in early voting, we feel very, very good what column North Carolina is going to be in come Election Day.” He always felt confident in a GOP victory, “if we could go out there and run a strong and principled campaign, talk about a vision of America based in our founding principles one,” he said, “that believes in limited government and the unlimited potential of the American people.”
Retired pharmacist Bob Diamond, 68, a precinct organization chairman from Charlotte, was ready to go vote after he left the early-morning rally on Thursday. Diamond, who described himself as “a fiscal and social conservative with a biblical world view,” was a Santorum supporter. But he said that he is confident that with Romney heading the Republican ticket, “God’s will is being done.”
Visit the State Board of Election's website for early voting information.
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte-based journalist, is a contributor to The Washington Post's “She the People” blog, The Root and theGrio. Her “Keeping It Positive” segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 a.m. on Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.