Barry Saunders

Are Trump and Clinton through flirting with NC now? – Saunders

By a show of hands, how many of you will be sorry to see this vicious, vile, vituperation-laden political season end?

Oh, so I’m the only one?

Probably.

This is how eager most of you are to see this thing reach the finish line: When I went in for my physical Monday morning – “Eat more chitlins,” my sawbones said (or maybe that’s just what I wished he’d said) – and wrote down the date on the form, my doctor noted that I was the third patient to write down “Nov. 8.” He guessed that was because people are just so darned eager to get Election Day behind them.

Despite the horrid campaign run by both presidential candidates, there’s one good thing you can say about this campaign: it has raised North Carolina’s profile in the national election. How else can one explain Hillary Clinton visiting the state 11 times since June, including at midnight Monday?

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has personally pitched woo at us 10 times. He, too, was here Monday. Our 15 electoral college votes are important, but several states with more didn’t receive as much hands-on attention as we did.

What’s the deal, yo?

Steven Greene, a political science professor at N.C. State University, told me North Carolina “has been becoming more important” nationally for a while. The reason, he said, is because we’re just so darned “flippable.” “In 2008 and 2012, I think we were the second-closest” state in presidential balloting, Greene said, with Barack Obama beating John McCain by 14,000 votes of 4.3 million cast, and then losing to Mitt Romney by about two percentage points four years later.

“That puts us right on the knife’s edge of states that can be flipped” from one political party to the other, he said. “We’re not Texas, we’re not California” – states whose voting patterns are essentially chiseled in granite regardless of the candidate – “but we’re among the largest flippable states.”

That’s why we can’t toss a pot of cold grits out the window without hitting a candidate or political surrogate.

As objectionable as the campaign and candidates have been at times, as fouled up as traffic has been as they were sped to or from a fundraiser, the renewed focus on North Carolina has been an economic boon to the state.

North Carolina’s changing demographics – “less white, more urban,” Professor Greene said – have made the state “ground zero” among states that could go either way.

As objectionable as the campaign and candidates have been at times, as fouled up as traffic has been as they were sped to or from a fundraiser, the renewed focus on North Carolina has been an economic boon to the state.

How can that be, you ask, when Trump and Clinton merely did drive-bys – parachuted in, made some speeches, grabbed some moolah and split? They never, as far as I recall, spent the night or rented hotel rooms, ran up astronomical tabs at hotel bars or ordered adult movies off the hotel telly. I doubt if either even ate a meal that didn’t involve a photo op while traversing the state for votes.

Their advance people and reporters spent money here, though, even if it was mainly on boxes of Krispy Kreme, packs of Nabs and sodas to keep them fortified while listening to the same stump speech for the 74th time that day.

As Clinton prepared to wrap up her campaign for the presidency with a midnight at the oasis speech at Reynolds Coliseum, I felt a wistful tear run down my cheek upon realizing that North Carolina – nay, Raleigh – was being viewed as the center of the political universe for the last time. Or at least until four years hence.

As the candidates pack up their staffs and stuff and head back to whence they came, will we Tar Heels be like the lovestruck teenager sitting by the phone thinking “Do you think he’ll call? Gee, I hope he calls”?

That’s why the words of the Carole King song “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” will be wafting through my mind as I bid Hil and Don adieu:

Tonight you’re mine – completely.

You give your love – so sweetly.

Tonight the lust for votes is shining in your eyes

But will you love me tomorrow?

Don’t count on it.

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