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Spotlight on North Carolina as Democrats Arrive in Battleground State

A volunteer sorts T-shirts Sunday before the start of the Alabama Gospel Brunch held at Grace on Brevard in Charlotte, N.C. Photo by Jared Soares for PBS NewsHour.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. | Four years ago President Obama turned this state into a general election battleground and won by fewer than 14,000 votes, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976 to claim the Tarheel State.

The Morning LineNow, the president and the Democratic Party are banking on a successful week here, hoping demographic shifts and an energized crop of college-age voters can put him over the top once more.

But the most immediate mission is to respond to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and halt whatever momentum GOP candidate Mitt Romney may have built over the previous week.

A new Elon University/Charlotte Observer poll released Sunday gave Romney a 47 percent to 43 percent advantage over the president among likely North Carolina voters. The margin is just outside the survey’s sampling error of plus-or-minus 3 percent.

Part of the reason for Romney’s lead: A 52 percent to 39 percent spread when it comes to which candidate would do a better job of handling the economy. But the GOP nominee has almost no support with African American voters, who make up 22 percent of the state’s population. The president gets the support of 89 percent of black voters compared to 1 percent for Romney.

Other North Carolina polls have showed the race is a dead heat. The left-leaning Public Policy Polling released a new survey Monday that found the contest is tied at 48 percent, while a CNN/ORC survey released last month that had Romney up 48 percent to 47 percent in the state.

With numbers like that it’s a near certainty both campaigns will be slugging it out here for the next two months. In fact, vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will be in the state Monday for a rally in Greenville, taking advantage of the non-tropical storm conditions that derailed Vice President Biden’s planned trip to Tampa last week to bracket the GOP convention.

Chase Howard, 5, plays with a delegate microphone on the floor of the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C. Photo by Jared Soares for PBS NewsHour.

The NewsHour will cover all of it, and we’ve already gotten started.

Ray Suarez, our floor reporter at the DNC, tees up his coverage with this blog post looking at protests. Gwen Ifill outlined five things she’s watching. And Christina laid out a few wild cards for the week in a post on Sunday. That includes the weather, the stage and if the Democrats will incorporate a chair into their festivities.


Our 24-hour livestream kicks off around 10 a.m. Monday. We’ll bring you the CarolinaFest and more.

Our livestream lineup:

  • Hari Sreenivasan and Christina will kick things off around 10 a.m.
  • The Political Checklist with Gwen, Judy Woodruff and Christina in the late morning.
  • The Doubleheader with Hari, and analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks around 5 p.m.
  • Dispatches from over the weekend.
  • Reports from the CarolinaFest street fair.
  • GoPro hat cam!

Keep an eye on our Flickr feed of images from the convention. Every image in the stream is free for use under a Creative Commons license. Kudos to freelance photographer Mallory Benedict (@mallorybenedict) for a great week in Tampa. This week, Jared Soares (@jaredsoares) is behind the camera.

Here is Jared’s first slide show:


  • Paul Solman matched his piece on Tampa’s economy from last week with this report on Charlotte. Watch it below:

  • Watch Mark and David analyze the Republicans’ convention week.
  • Ray watched Romney’s speech with a group of undecided voters on Thursday night. And none of them were any more sure about their votes after he finished speaking. Watch their conversation here.
  • Reporter-producers Saskia de Melker and Michael Fritz crafted this video report on the foreign press who cover conventions.
  • Reporter-producer Cassie M. Chew took a look at how Huffington Post and Google offered journalists a respite from long hours with yoga and massages.
  • Here’s a musical recap of the Republican convention.






  • The Obama campaign released a new television ad Monday that accuses Romney of putting forward plans that would raise taxes on middle-income Americans. The ad will air in seven battleground states: Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Florida. You can watch the 30-second spot [here](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngiGVOy9g-0
  • Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley caused a stir Sunday when he was asked by CBS’s Bob Schieffer if the nation is better off today than it was four years ago. O’Malley’s response: “No, but that’s not the question of this election.”
  • Huffington Post’s Jon Ward writes about the new education film “Won’t Back Down” and how its premiere could impact things in Charlotte.
  • The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza writes about the skeptical but beneficial relationship between President Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
  • Vice President Biden is the subject of the latest New York Magazine cover story by John Heilemann.
  • Marilyn Werber Serafini of Kaiser Health News and the NewsHour teamed up to cut through the rhetoric and take a look at the two campaign’s Medicare plans.
  • Rothenberg Political Report’s Jessica Taylor notices that opposition trackers followed candidates to both conventions.

Alex Bruns contributed to this report.


  • Vice President Biden speaks at a Labor Day rally in Detroit at noon.
  • President Obama delivers remarks at a campaign event in Toledo, Ohio, at 12:30 p.m. ET, and tours damage caused by Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana at 5:50 p.m.
  • Paul Ryan attends a campaign event in Greenville, N.C., at 1:20 p.m.
  • Mitt Romney has no public events scheduled.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.

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