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Bitzer: Trump needs to win NC more than Clinton

By Josh Bergeron 

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — North Carolina matters more than most states in the 2016 presidential election, and it would be an especially valuable prize for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, according to Catawba College politics professor Michael Bitzer.

North Carolina is seen as a critical battleground state for the 2016 presidential election, and Bitzer says North Carolina’s election results in November may be an indicator of the national race. Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton could likely win the presidency without North Carolina, Bitzer said. For Trump, however, North Carolina is a necessity.

“Strategically, for Donald Trump and the Republicans, they have to have North Carolina in their column,” Bitzer said. “They cannot win the White House without it.”

He said Clinton only needs to keep North Carolina competitive. Keeping the state competitive saps valuable resources and time from the Trump campaign, Bitzer said.

He said it’s likely that a number of other important states — Florida, Ohio and Virginia — would also be won by Democrats if Trump loses North Carolina. Like America as a whole, the registered voter population in North Carolina is less white than it has been in previous elections. It’s also important to consider the millennial generation, Bitzer said.

“We generally know that white voters tend to be more Republican in nature,” he said. “For this millennial generation, having grown up and been influenced by the Obama presidency, they are much more likely to be affiliated with the Democratic Party.”

In North Carolina, about 2.6 million voters are registered as Democrats, about 2 million are registered Republicans and 4.6 million are unaffiliated. In Rowan County, unaffiliated voters are also a significant force. A total of 28,630 people are registered Democrats, 37,177 are registered Republicans and 25,815 are registered unafiliated in Rowan County.

Bitzer noted that North Carolina has been “the most competitive in the past two elections of any state except Ohio and Florida.” In 2008, Obama won North Carolina by less than 15,000 votes. He lost North Carolina by about 92,000 votes in 2012.

Clinton and Trump both held campaign events in North Carolina on Tuesday. Clinton campaigned with Obama and a number of other candidates running for state and national office. A couple notable Republican candidates — Gov. Pat McCrory and Sen. Richard Burr — were absent from Trump’s event.

Bitzer said Tuesday’s events won’t be the last for presidential candidates in North Carolina in 2016.

“They’ll be getting their frequent flyer miles into North Carolina,” he said. “They may not make it back before the conventions, but they will be back.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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