Politics & Government

Clinton, Obama to visit Charlotte Tuesday as campaign focus turns to NC

President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will campaign on Tuesday in Charlotte
President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will campaign on Tuesday in Charlotte AP

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and incumbent Barack Obama will campaign together for the first time next week – in Charlotte.

Their joint appearance Tuesday builds on the Democrats’ strong campaign footprint in a key battleground state, where Clinton and her allies have used the airwaves in recent weeks to pound Republican Donald Trump.

Trump has yet to respond with North Carolina ads of his own.

The Clinton campaign has not yet offered details on exactly where and what time she and the president will appear. But they will be joined by N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Democrats’ candidate for governor, and Deborah Ross, the party’s candidate for U.S. Senate.

Bringing the president to Charlotte to speak up for Clinton is only the latest sign that the presumptive Democratic nominee for president intends to compete hard to win North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes.

The Clinton campaign has been running more than $10 million worth of TV ads in the state. One that started Monday cost nearly $192,000 in the Charlotte market alone, according to a contract with WBTV.

Another ad began running last weekend on cable stations across the country, including in North Carolina. It criticized Trump’s comments following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

In addition, the super PAC Priorities USA, which supports Clinton, announced it’s reserving $9 million of airtime in North Carolina. Contracts show that includes $494,000 in the Charlotte market for the last week of October alone.

But it’s been all quiet on the Trump front so far.

“It seems like the Democrats are getting sort of an open field right now,” said Republican strategist Carter Wrenn. “It’s sort of your ideal situation. You have ads up and the other person doesn’t.”

Clinton and Trump are both expected to make major pushes in the state that Obama narrowly won in 2008 and lost, also narrowly, in 2012. Politico calls it one of the 11 states that will decide the election.

Both Trump and Clinton held N.C. rallies this month. On Tuesday, the Clinton campaign said in announcing the Charlotte visit, Obama and Clinton “will discuss building on the progress we’ve made and their vision for an America that is stronger together.”

GOP: Trump unconventional

The spending disparity in North Carolina reflects Clinton’s national advantage.

At the end of May her campaign had $42 million in the bank compared with the Trump campaign’s $1.3 million. Priorities USA had $52 million.

Trump’s state director could not be reached. Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the state GOP, said he’s not worried.

“I’m very comfortable with where we are knowing that it’s a long difficult campaign,” he said. “It’s going to require Hillary to do more here because the state is trending Republican...”

“You do have to recognize that the Trump people have said very openly that he’s an unconventional candidate and will have an unconventional campaign.”

Woodhouse said Republicans have over 50 paid campaign staffers on the ground working on behalf of Republican candidates. That’s about the same numbers Democrats currently have, according to state Democratic Party spokesman David Miranda.

The gap in ad spending could be significant. One Clinton adviser, who asked not to be named, said Republican Mitt Romney outspent Obama by $30 million in 2012 television advertising in winning the state by 92,000 votes.

David Plouffe, who managed Obama’s 2008 campaign, singled out North Carolina from among the other battlegrounds, in part because of House Bill 2, the law requiring transgender persons to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they were born into.

“I think the one she’s most likely to win is North Carolina,” he said on a podcast, “where I think the bathroom issue in North Carolina, some of the issues with gays and lesbians, and then Trump, you put all that together in a state that is becoming more progressive, with a lot more people moving into it .…”

Do TV ads in June make a difference in November?

“If they’re good ads I think they make a lot of difference,” Wrenn said. “Politics is about getting information to voters. And right now she’s giving voters information about Trump.”

Obama’s Charlotte return

Obama’s return to Charlotte on Tuesday will be something of a political homecoming. Charlotte was the site of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where Obama was nominated for a second term. His campaign insisted he would compete hard for the state, but the president never returned to campaign here after giving his nominating speech.

In endorsing Clinton earlier this month, Obama said: “I’ve seen her determination to give every American a fair shot at opportunity, no matter how tough the fight – that’s what’s always driven her, and still does.”

The Republican National Committee weighed in after news of the upcoming campaign trip broke, pointing out that Obama lost North Carolina in 2012 and, two years later, Republican Thom Tillis unseated then-U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat.

“This event (in Charlotte on Tuesday) will be another reminder that all Hillary Clinton is offering are four more years of the same failed Obama policies that have made America less prosperous and less safe,” RNC spokeswoman Kara Carter said in an emailed statement.

A CBS News poll of battleground states released last weekend found Clinton slightly ahead of Trump in North Carolina, 44 percent to 42 percent.

And a poll of likely N.C. voters released Wednesday by the Republican-leaning Civitas Institute in Raleigh also had Clinton with a slight lead over Trump, 42 percent to 40 percent. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson was the choice of 6 percent of those surveyed, and 10 percent were undecided.

During his second term, Obama has traveled to the Charlotte area a few times: in 2013 to Mooresville Middle School to unveil his plan to connect nearly every U.S. classroom to high-speed broadband and wireless internet; in 2014 to address the national convention of the American Legion, where he outlined steps to help vets; and in 2015 to appear at a town hall meeting at ImaginOn that focused on equal pay for women.

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