CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—There are advantages and disadvantages to living in a key battleground state. The advantage is that you get lots of personal attention from the candidates. The disadvantage is that they won't go away.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have now visited North Carolina 24 times between them, while their vice presidential candidates—I want to say Lance and Skippy?— have been here another two dozen times. President Obama, meanwhile, has now stopped in the Tar Heel state three times, counting today's visit to UNC.
North Carolina hasn't seen this much traveling on it since Villanova beat UNC in last season's NCAA basketball championship.
The ceaseless whistle stops are because North Carolina could ultimately be the difference between Clinton winning the White House and, as Obama warns, the ruin of our nation and the end of the world.
"I hate to put a little pressure on you, but the fate of the Republic rests on your shoulders," Obama told a loud crowd at UNC today. "The fate of the world is teetering and you, North Carolina, are going to have to make sure that we push it in the right direction."
Also, if you're responsible for saving the world, it's probably not something you want to put off until the last minute. That's why President Obama and the rest of the Democratic apparatus is putting a full-court press on North Carolinians to vote early—like now.
So far, the numbers aren't looking great. Some 1.8 million North Carolinians, or 24% of the state's registered voters, have already cast their ballots. That sounds like a lot until you realize 68% of registered North Carolinians voted early in 2012, according to the state board of elections. So the numbers are actually down, despite the lines outside many early voting stations.
Voting rights advocacy group Democracy North Carolina blames the lower numbers on the fact that many counties weren't prepared to open on time due to a last minute court ruling that started early voting on Nov. 20. For example, only 9 of Wake County's 20 sites were open on the first day of early voting, while Guilford County only managed to open 1 of its 25 voting stations on time.
Another discouraging detail for the Democrats is that the people who have voted early look a little different this election than they did in 2012. When Obama was running for reelection, the early voting numbers were driven by black female Democrats, who outpaced every other demographic group. This year, according to the election board, white female Republicans are leading the pack in early voting.
So while Clinton is thought to be in the lead after the first two weeks of early voting, her lead probably isn't as high as it could be.
All is not lost. There are three days left for early voting in North Carolina, and the state is expected to see a surge in the final days, because that's how people are. But Obama isn't willing to leave that to chance.
During an impassioned speech under a blistering hot fall sun this afternoon, Obama reminded North Carolinians how patently unqualified, racist, misogynistic, unstable, dishonest, and empty-suited Trump is. He warned them that the only way to stop the man is to vote. And, Obama stressed (emphasis his, caps lock mine): "IT'S EASIER TO VOTE THAN EVER IN NORTH CAROLINA" SO NOT DOING SO IS INDEFENSIBLE.
Even people who haven't registered yet can still register and vote all at once under North Carolina's one-stop shopping provision. So no excuses, folks. In fact, even trying to make an excuse for not voting is to shit on the memory of our ancestors, Obama said (emphasis his, profanity mine).
"How are we going to betray all those who have worked so hard and risked everything for the vote, so that we could pull the lever, and we're not going to vote?! What's our excuse?" the president demanded.
Obama said those who want to suppress the vote are going to fail, but if people abstain from voting "the work of those who would suppress your vote will have been done without them having to lift a finger."
So it's time to get down to "bid-nis" and make North Carolina blue like it was in 2012, Obama said.
In reality, North Carolina isn't exactly a blue state. It's not even purple. If you look at it on an electoral map, it's mostly red with a few flecks of blue. But those blue polka dots just happen to be the cities where most people live, and vote. So when you swirl it all together, it comes out looking purple. And when Obama stirs, it turns blue. That's why he's mixing so hard for Hillary, because she needs all the help she can get.
"I voted the first day of early voting for Hillary, but I'm more enthusiastic against Trump than I am for Hillary," Beverly McNeill, a retired African-American school teacher from Durham, told me at Wednesday's Obama rally. "For many African Americans, this has more to do with continuing the legacy of Obama than it does about Hillary. President Obama was once in a lifetime for us."
Obama seems to understand that. He told the crowd what they needed to hear to effectively leverage his popularity into votes for Clinton.
The president said Clinton might not be "flashy," but she is a hard-worker who is undoubtedly qualified and steady at the helm. In short, she's someone who'll get the job done and do the country proud. Trump, on the other hand, would be an unmitigated disaster for the United States and the planet and beyond.
"Keep in mind, North Carolina, that all the progress that we've made over the last eight years, all the progress that we hope to make over the next eight years, all of that goes out the window if we don't win this election," Obama said to hoots from the crowd of Ummm-hmmm! That's right! Sure does!
"If Hillary wins North Carolina, she wins. When I say the fate of the Republic rests on you, I wasn't joking. But that shouldn't make you fearful, that should make you excited. It's not often when you can move the arc of history. Don't let that chance slip away."