North Carolina to be a crucial battleground state in 2020

Trump won by a slim margin in 2016, but demographics in the state are changing.

August 24, 2020, 1:08 PM

North Carolina, home of the upcoming business sessions of the Republican National Convention and once a GOP stronghold, is considered a robust battleground state in the election.

In 2016, President Donald Trump won the state by a slim margin of 3.6%. But North Carolina has seen the most widespread growth of jobs and diverse, young voters, and as the state continues to change, Democrats believe they can obtain a blue victory.

Trump hopes to hold on to many of the rural counties that flipped from blue to red between 2008 and 2016, and he currently holds that support in places where farmers are looking for stronger trade deals. Trump will use this week to turn his poll numbers around; his unfavorability in a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll stands at 60%.

On the other hand, Democrats hope to target large, rural minority communities who may feel they've been left behind over the past year.

PHOTO: A woman fills out a ballot at a polling place during Super Tuesday voting on March 3, 2020, in St. Pauls, N.C.
A woman fills out a ballot at a polling place during Super Tuesday voting on March 3, 2020, in St. Pauls, N.C.
Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The state has 15 electoral votes up for grabs. In 2008, Barack Obama won the state by about 14,000 votes. Four years later, Republican candidate Mitt Romney beat Obama by about 2%. And in 2016, Donald Trump won the state with nearly 4% against Hillary Clinton.

Religion, children's future and farming

Working on her family's 200-acre farm to move boxes of tobacco on a hot, summer afternoon, North Carolina farmer Susan Ford told ABC News that she strongly supports Trump and described religion, her children's future and farming as her major concerns as she considers her vote.

"To me, it looks like the Democrats are really trying to push socialism in America. I'm not a big fan of that," Ford said. "I think he's really done a lot for ag and agriculture in America."

Although Trump has Ford's steadfast support this election, there was one thing that made her pause about the current president.

When asked by ABC News if the president's tweets bothered her, Ford paused slightly and responded, "Um, to an extent it does, I'll have to say but you know, he really doesn't have much support up there in Washington to back him up."

Business owners across the state are a part of the suburban vote the president also hopes to maintain, but since March, amid the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 1.25 million North Carolinians have filed for unemployment and more than 150,000 residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

The urban-rural divide

Cassandra Brooks, the owner of a day care center south of Raleigh, said she would not vote for Trump this year because she is disappointed in his efforts. specifically as the pandemic hit.

"I voted for Donald Trump in 2016 because I felt like he was a business owner," Brooks told ABC News.

But the road forward during the pandemic for Brooks is not easy. "We lost lots of income, we did lose some staff because they were afraid to work in these conditions," she told ABC News.

"North Carolina very much reflects the urban-rural divide that is playing out in the country as a whole," Michael Bitzer, a professor of politics and history at Catawba College, in Salisbury, N.C., told ABC News.

Trump "won the surrounding suburban areas very handily -- over 60%. But if there's any slippage in his margins, and those urban suburbs move even more Democratic, I think that's going to make things even more competitive in North Carolina," Bitzer continued.

Bitzer believes that Trump should focus on the suburban areas, but Brooks said even if the job market improved and unemployment and COVID-19 cases were to go down, she would still not consider voting for Trump again.

"I would never vote for Donald Trump again ever in my life. If my life depended on it, I wouldn't," she said.

With the election less than 70 days away, and voting to begin first in North Carolina on Sept. 4, some voters remain undecided.

Ross Turnmire, a land development manager, is caught between former Vice President Joe Biden and Trump. Turnmire has always voted Republican but told ABC News that this year he is uncertain who he will select on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Turnmire is a suburban voter who Trump needs to keep, but Biden could persuade him.

When pressed why he hasn't made a decision yet, Turnmire said, "You know, it ends up being kind of policy versus person in my mind."

"I've always kind of really more aligned with the Republican Party in terms of their ideas about the platforms that they run the country from," he said. "But then you look at President Trump, the way he kind of acts personally, he's very disparaging to people."

On Biden, Turnmire said, "he certainly carries himself I think, with a much higher level of polish and projects a sense of leadership that you kind of expect from the role of president."

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