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Young North Carolinians turn out in droves to vote

In the battleground state of North Carolina, young people under the age of 29 are turning out in large numbers to cast their vote. The Senate race here is also one of the most competitive, with big spending from both parties -- and a sexting scandal. Rusty Jacobs, politics reporter at WUNC, joins Hari Sreenivasan for more.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Here in North Carolina, as in previous presidential elections, the state has emerged as an important battleground. Both presidential candidates and vice-presidential candidates have been making frequent stops here and there is also a close race for Senate.

    The tar heel state also finds itself facing issues of rising COVID-19 cases, increase in costs of healthcare and economic losses, some due in part to a changing climate.

    For more on how the issues may play out here in North Carolina on Election Day, I sat down with Rusty Jacobs, politics reporter for WUNC, North Carolina public radio.

  • Rusty Jacobs:

    There's a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of attention in general, and you've seen some really important developments in the turnout so far in North Carolina.

    Tufts has been doing some research on the turnout of young voters, 18 to 29. North Carolina is right up at the top, right behind Florida and Texas is having the biggest number of that young voter age-range turnout already.

    Joe Biden maintains an edge right now, maybe three or four percent over Donald Trump. And you see in those numbers an advantage for the Democratic ticket from women, a majority of women, according to recent polls, supporting the Biden-Harris ticket and Black voters, very key bloc here in North Carolina. And they are overwhelmingly, at this point, two polls indicating support for Biden and Harris over Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    There's also a ton of money that's been poured in on both sides on the Senate race. We also had, in the middle of that race or late in that race, the revelation that the Democratic candidate had an extramarital affair. Has that played into what's happening now?

  • Rusty Jacobs:

    Not so far.

    Let's put it this way: Cal Cunningham, the Democrat challenging first-time, first-term incumbent, Thom Tillis, maintains an edge. Kind of like Joe Biden, he's in that three to five percent range right now over Thom Tillis, according to recent polls.

    But as you noted, that's kind of surprising, considering that just a few weeks ago, it emerged he had been engaging in inappropriate, sexually suggestive texts with another woman, not his wife.

    He's been very disciplined about not answering questions on that subject. He's avoided answering questions, he said it's a private matter, he has consistently stuck to the election issues that seem to be resonating the most with voters: access to affordable health care, handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

    It also didn't hurt Cal Cunningham that at the same time the scandal emerged, Thom Tillis contracted COVID-19. You got to remember, he attended the naming ceremony for then-nominee Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. A lot of Trump administration officials and the president contracted COVID-19. That in a way not only compromised Thom Tillis' health, but it may have compromised his principles.

    At one time he was seen as somewhat independent. There was a time he famously opposed emergency funding for President Trump's border wall. He then infamously flipped on that issue and cast an important vote supporting that funding. So he's tied his fate to Donald Trump, but has contracted COVID-19 and that, in a way, symbolizes for some people and maybe some key voters, support for a kind of a reckless policy when it comes to handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So it sounds like it is about coronavirus, it is about President Trump, and those are the sort of primary drivers and how you view those two things is in part responsible for why North Carolina's become such a contentious battleground?

  • Rusty Jacobs:

    Absolutely.

    Let's look at the governor race in North Carolina right now. That in a way, that race where Governor Cooper has a big advantage right now, is in a way emblematic of the presidential race.

    The very issues that Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is running on, same as President Trump, he trails the Democrat, Roy Cooper, who's running on a lot of the same issues that Joe Biden is.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Rusty Jacobs, thanks so much.

  • Rusty Jacobs:

    You're welcome.

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