North Carolina is Finally a Player

Lorie Byrd

4/25/2008 12:01:00 AM - Lorie Byrd

For the first time in my memory I matter in a presidential primary. I would matter more if I were voting on the Democrat ballot, but for the first time in a long time, North Carolina is a player in a presidential election.

My state of North Carolina rarely gets to see the big presidential campaign show up close and personal. In recent years Republican presidential candidates have been pretty comfortably ahead in the months leading up to the November election and due to our May primary the nominations are usually decided well before the Tarheel State votes. That is definitely not the case this year.

Although John McCain has the GOP nomination wrapped up, the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continues to rage. All the more so after this week’s big Clinton win in Pennsylvania.

The circus has definitely come to town. It’s kinda cool, actually. Even if the Democrats are the focus of most of the excitement.

We are getting visits from the candidates and their spouses and their children on a regular basis now. Chelsea Clinton is even being asked by North Carolina university students about her dad’s affairs. And it is making national news.

Now that we are finally “players” in the big game, we are seeing campaign commercials constantly, too. Obama and Hillary are all over the airwaves. They even talk to us personally. Hillary is answering questions from North Carolinians in her ads. In a speech in Indiana, Obama recently mentioned a North Carolina man who has no health care.

What has perhaps been most exciting, though, is a story that is still developing about an ad created by the North Carolina Republican Party which shows the Democrat candidates for governor and Obama’s now famous (or rather infamous) Reverend Wright. At least one local station has rejected the ad. John McCain and the Republican National Committee have asked the state party that the ad not be run. It will be interesting to see how this story shakes out, and what makes it all the more fun is that I will get to watch it on Fox News and in other national media. Hey, I’ll bet they will even ask Karl Rove about this one. The political junkie in me is in heaven.

Another thing that will be interesting is to see what the residual effects of all these presidential ads is in November. John McCain holds a comfortable lead over Hillary in recent NC polls, but Obama and McCain are running almost even in some. John McCain is not running any ads here. Will the big Democratic ad buys for the primary win over some undecideds early – undecideds that might have gone for John McCain if they had been hearing his message already? Or will people be so sick of Obama and Hillary that they will welcome McCain’s ads closer to November? Stay tuned.

The excitement has not just been on the airwaves. Large numbers of new voters have registered across the state. A majority of those new voters have registered Democrat. Whether they did so to vote for a candidate that has made a connection with them, or they registered just so they can vote against Hillary Clinton in the primary, or they registered so they can vote for Hillary Clinton as part of Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos” remains to be seen. Early voting started here April 17 and in some counties the number of early voters is five times what it was in previous primaries.

Kids (and others who don’t normally do so) are talking about politics, too. At least mine and their friends are. I guess that happens to some extent in every presidential election, but since we are seeing so many more candidate visits and television commercials there is more of a buzz than usual. My daughter told me that her teacher had been talking a lot about the election – about how this year is special because a woman and an African-American are on the presidential ballot. On the way home from school last week my daughter’s seven year old friend was even talking politics. She said her family was going to move out of the country if Hillary Clinton was elected. My daughter asked her why and her friend said because her daddy says Hillary Clinton wants to control everyone’s lives. I won’t argue with that, but now that my state is finally helping determine who the next President is, I’m not going anywhere.