In an unprecedented flurry, three major presidential candidates descended on the Charlotte area Monday, a day before they each face pivotal primaries in North Carolina and four other states.
Democrat Bernie Sanders rallied supporters at PNC Music Pavilion near UNC Charlotte, while rival Hillary Clinton was scheduled to make a late-night appearance at Grady Cole Center just outside uptown.
Republican Donald Trump spoke to around 1,500 people at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, but about 1,000 couldn’t get in. The day before, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, his main rival, rallied 3,000 supporters at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The appearances underscore the fight for delegates in each party. Some Republicans hope to stop Trump’s momentum and force a contested convention in Cleveland. Sanders hopes to continue chipping away at Clinton’s delegate lead.
A new Public Policy Polling survey found Trump holding a double-digit lead over Cruz in what has become a two-man race in the state. Between them, Cruz and Trump were winning nearly 8 in 10 GOP votes.
Clinton, meanwhile, had a 19-point lead over Sanders. Much of her support comes from African-Americans, who make up a third of the Democratic primary electorate.
Polls suggest that North Carolina will once again be a battleground state in November.
Voters are intensely interested in this election. A primary record 56,752 people cast early or absentee ballots in Mecklenburg County. Turnout could rival the county’s recent high of 34 percent, set in 2008.
A whirlwind of candidate visits in the past week seems to validate the actions of lawmakers, who moved the primary from May to March in hopes of giving North Carolina voters more say in the election process.