Clin­ton could put away Trump by car­ry­ing N.C.

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Thomas Beau­mont

RALEIGH, N.C. >> Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump can do lit­tle to stop Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton from win­ning the pres­i­dency if she car­ries North Carolina, where their close race re­flects the na­tional li­a­bil­i­ties of both can­di­dates.

Trump is strug­gling with con­ser­va­tive Democrats, es­pe­cially women in the big and boom­ing sub­urbs of Char­lotte and Raleigh-Durham, who’ve long been part of the GOP’s win­ning for­mula in North Carolina.

Clin­ton has her own wor­ries: Younger vot­ers who helped Barack Obama win the state in 2008 and come close in 2012 are far more hes­i­tant to back her.

In a sce­nario play­ing out across the most con­tested states, Clin­ton’s pur­suit of new sup­port­ers is aided by a huge, data-driven ground force in North Carolina, while Trump is stick­ing with his come-what-may plan.

“Both can­di­dates have prob­lems here,” said Paul Shu­maker, an ad­viser to U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, RN.C., who is seek­ing re-elec­tion. “But I think the Clin­ton peo­ple are more at­tuned about fix­ing their prob­lems than Trump’s are.”

Clin­ton, in a visit Sun­day to Char­lotte, ad­dressed con­gre­gants at a black church less than two weeks af­ter the po­lice-in­volved shoot­ing death of a black man. The shoot­ing led to two nights of vi­o­lent protests and a de­bate over race re­la­tions.

“We’ve got to take ac­tion. We’ve got to start now, not to­mor­row. Not next year, now,” Clin­ton said.

Polls sug­gest North Carolina, Ohio and Florida are among the most com­pet­i­tive states ex­pected to de­cide the fi­nal steps on the path to the 270 elec­toral votes re­quired to win the White House.

In all but one of the past nine pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee has taken North Carolina. Clin­ton’s ap­par­ent strength in once re­li­ably Repub­li­can Vir­ginia and swing state Colorado may mean a per­ilously nar­row route to an elec­toral ma­jor­ity for Trump.

If Clin­ton cap­tures North Carolina, Trump would have to carry peren­ni­ally tight Ohio and Florida, plus Demo­crat-lean­ing Penn­syl­va­nia, and sweep less pop­u­lous close states that ap­pear in­creas­ingly out of reach.

Shu­maker says GOP sup­port for Trump is lower than usual in North Carolina, as es­ti­mated in pri­vate GOP and pub­lic polling. 2012 nom­i­nee Mitt Rom­ney re­ceived more than 90 per­cent of the GOP vote in North Carolina, ac­cord­ing to exit polls; Trump ap­pears markedly short of that.

Trump promised to win over con­ser­va­tive Democrats, who are com­mon in Cary, a sub­urb of roomy brick homes and newer re­tail de­vel­op­ments west of Raleigh.

Such a voter is Sun­day Petrov, who is grudg­ingly back­ing Clin­ton. “It’s more like I’m vot­ing against Trump,” she said. “What both­ers me most is his dis­re­spect for His­pan­ics, for Mus­lims, his un­pro­fes­sional de­meanor.”

Trump has lit­tle out­reach aimed at spe­cific voter groups in North Carolina; Clin­ton does. She needs it with younger peo­ple, with whom her polling mar­gins pale next to Obama’s in 2008 and 2012.

Af­ter last Mon­day’s de­bate with Trump, she pleaded her case dur­ing a rally at Wake Tech Com­mu­nity Col­lege. The elec­tion, she said, “is more about the fu­ture of young peo­ple and chil­dren than it’s ever been,” and she talked about her plan for govern­ment-sub­si­dized, tu­ition-free col­lege. Later in the week, Clin­ton’s daugh­ter, Chelsea, vis­ited Asheville and Greenville, stop­ping at Eastern Carolina Univer­sity to fo­cus on col­lege debt.

“North Carolina feels like Vir­ginia in 2012,” said Dan Kan­ni­nen, the Clin­ton cam­paign’s top ad­viser in the state.

Obama won Vir­ginia in 2008 and 2012, af­ter 10 con­sec­u­tive GOP vic­to­ries there, by at­tract­ing younger, eth­ni­cally di­verse and more ed­u­cated adults, es­pe­cially those flow­ing into north­ern Vir­ginia’s tech and de­fense sec­tors.

Clin­ton is putting that same strat­egy to work in North Carolina. Uni­ver­si­ties, high-tech com­pa­nies such as Cisco Sys­tems and the fi­nan­cial sec­tor, in­clud­ing Fidelity In­vest­ments, have at­tracted thou­sands of young pro­fes­sion­als to the Raleigh area alone since 2012.

In the past four years, North Carolina has added roughly 300,000 vot­ers, mostly in metropoli­tan ar­eas that ac­count for half of the state’s vote. They are pre­dom­i­nantly col­lege-ed­u­cated, which is good news for Clin­ton in a close race.

“Trump’s big­gest prob­lem is col­lege-ed­u­cated whites,” said Repub­li­can strate­gist Michael Luethy, who charts leg­isla­tive races. “If he solves his prob­lem there, he wins. Eas­ier said than done.”

Per­haps the big­gest un­known head­ing into the Nov. 8 elec­tion is whether African-Amer­i­cans will turn out for Clin­ton at near the his­toric lev­els they twice did for Obama, the first black pres­i­dent.

Clin­ton dom­i­nates Trump among African-Amer­i­cans, who make up 22 per­cent of North Carolina’s vot­ers, the big­gest share of any of bat­tle­ground state. Trump has done lit­tle to turn around long-stand­ing sup­port for Democrats by black vot­ers.

Clin­ton has or­ga­niz­ers on or near cam­puses of the state’s 12 his­tor­i­cally black col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties.

More­over, early-vot­ing re­stric­tions en­acted in 2013 by North Carolina’s Repub­li­can-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture and GOP Gov. Pat McCrory were over­turned af­ter being ruled dis­crim­i­na­tory to­ward black vot­ers.

McCrory is up for re-elec­tion in Novem­ber and trails Demo­crat Roy Cooper in a rare case where a down-bal­lot race could gen­er­ate turnout for the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

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