Donald Trump didn’t schedule an election-eve rally in Raleigh because of the weather or a chance to see old friends. As the 2016 presidential election nears, Trump’s campaign — as angry and bombastic as any ever run for the White House — was listening to a host of forecasters who concluded that North Carolina, once viewed as a predictable red state, might well decide the next president.
Indeed, the Old North State was a favored destination over these past few weeks for all the candidates in the race, Trump and Hillary Clinton, Gov. Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, and Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s partner. The Electoral College numbers, or the speculation on those numbers, jumped around daily.
Clinton has gone from a lock — after embarrassing, caught-on-tape evidence of Trump’s egomaniacal view of women and claims by a number of women of personal harrassment — to a down-to-the-wire finish, the result in large part of an explosive announcement by FBI Director James Comey that there would be further investigation of emails connected to Clinton that could be violations of national security. Prior to that, the whirlwind from an earlier email investigation had subsided, as it should have, just as the “Benghazi issue” had eventually faded.
So now North Carolina is in the eye of the storm. It is a state that went for Barack Obama in 2008 and then was narrowly Republican in 2012.
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North Carolina voters must and we hope will take their closing votes on Tuesday as those that may well set the course for the nation in the next four years. The gubernatorial race between a weak Republican incumbent, Pat McCrory, and a capable, thoughtful challenger, Attorney General Roy Cooper, Democrat, is important for the state, of course, especially in view of the disastrous effects of HB2, the starving of public education, the cruel and foolish failure to expand Medicaid and the bullying of a Republican General Assembly that caters only to the wealthiest citizens.
But it must be hoped that whatever their differences regarding McCrory and Cooper, North Carolina voters will take a sober, Tar Heel common-sense view of this presidential race. This is no place to cast a grudge vote because of a personal dislike of Hillary Clinton, perhaps because of long high-profile in public life, or because she’s perceived as believing the presidency is her right to have, or because she’s seen as a liberal when she is in fact a centrist.
The bottom line on this choice should be qualifications and how the winner would shape the world. Clinton is qualified by any definition: senator, former secretary of state, a long-time, on-the-record believer in helping children and the protection of women, a child of the American middle class and yes, a person who has weathered bravely 30 years of the slings and arrows of critics and a scandal that nearly brought down her husband, a scandal not of her making. Her life experience and political experience has toughened her, and shaped her strong character.
Donald Trump qualifies on not one of those counts. He was born with a silver spoon and has never let go of it. He has treated workers connected to his companies poorly. He has had multiple bankruptcies for which he feels no remorse. His charitable contributions have seemed exaggerated, and his tax returns remain secret — for the reason that he doesn’t pay taxes. His reckless views have been on full and embarrassing display in this campaign. His inflammatory rhetoric about foreign policy has Democrats and Republicans who have served in the highest government ranks scared to death, which is why they’ve talked repeatedly about the risks in Trump having the nuclear codes that could send the country into war.
If a long presidential campaign is supposed to test the character and the qualifications of candidates, Trump has made straight “F’s.”
Yes, he has unearthed a seething anger on the part of many, anger in some cases rooted in financial discontent, in others perhaps a feeling of helplessness against a government perceived as big and ugly and distancing itself from their concerns, in worry about the future.
Should Clinton win the presidency, she will have some work to do to speak to those people, and to understand their concerns. Her long service indicates she will take that seriously, and will work to unite the country. That is the president America needs. That is the president North Carolina must choose.