‘I’ll hold my nose and vote’

By Sarah Ewall-wice, Senior U.S. Political Reporter For Dailymail.Com In Raleigh, Nc

12:42 09 Mar 2024, updated 12:44 09 Mar 2024

  • Biden’s team sees the state as a pickup opportunity in the general election 
  • Trump visited the state on Saturday and has vowed to win it again in November
  • Trump won state by 75,000 votes in 2020 but it reelected Democratic governor
  • Exit polling found nearly eight in ten North Carolina Haley voters did not commit to voting for the GOP nominee in November  
  • NC Governors race could play key role in the state come November 
  • NC voters expressed frustrating to DailyMail.com about both Biden and Trump

In Granville Country, North Carolina on Super Tuesday there was a steady stream of voters headed to the polls: Donald Trump voters, Joe Biden voters, and those who said neither of the above.

It was a county Trump won in 2020 by about 2,000 votes. That same election, the Democratic governor Roy Cooper won the county by just over 300 votes – proving parts of the Tar Heel State remain deeply purple.

Now Biden and Trump are headed for another head-to-head matchup in North Carolina that Trump won overall in 2020 by a razor-thin margin but Democrats won statewide down ballot. And voters have mixed feelings on the rematch in the battleground state.

In Oxford, a city in the county, registered Democrat Cindy, 53, voted in the gubernatorial primary for nominee Josh Stein, but she didn’t vote for Biden at the top of the ticket.

Former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Greensboro
President Biden leaving for Camp David from the White House

She said she will vote in November for ‘one of the two choices’ but declined to say who.

‘I think both for the Democrat and the Republican nominees as they currently stand, I just think they’re too old, and I hate to say that but that is a big issue with me,’ she said.

But Democrats are not the only ones with little appetite for 2020 2.0.

Over in Greensboro, registered Republican Ellen Freeze, 74, was also frustrated.

‘A younger generation would look towards the future in solving present problems,’ she said. She voted for Haley, but come November she expects Trump to be the nominee, saying ‘I will hold my nose and vote for him.’

In the Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, Trump clobbered opponent Nikki Haley with more than 73 percent of the vote. Some 790,000 voters came out to cast ballots for the embattled former president who swept every county. 

Haley received just over 23 percent of the vote, but nearly 250,000 North Carolinians came out to support her.

In the Democratic presidential primary, Biden won 87 percent, more than 606,000 votes. But some 88,000 voters – 12 percent – who cast ballots in the Democratic primary voted ‘no preference’ in the contest.

Looking at the results however, Biden’s team could see it as a positive sign, noted Western Carolina University professor Chris Cooper. 

In 2012, about one in five voters in the Democratic primary voted ‘no preference’ over incumbent President Barack Obama, who had won the state in 2008, a signal the party is more unified there now than it previously has been.

Donald Trump won every single county in North Carolina in the GOP primary against Haley
While a number of voters chose ‘no preference’ in the state’s Democratic primary, it was. a smaller percentage than President Obama saw in the primary in 2012

More than 1.7 million voters cast ballots in primaries, but turnout at 24 percent was down compared to the 2020 primaries when it was about 31 percent. 

With the lack of competition at the top of the ticket, low turnout did not come as a surprise, but there are questions over what the lack of enthusiasm will mean come November.

On the ground, DailyMail.com found a series of Biden voters around Durham and Greensboro who were frustrated with having only Biden, 81, as the only option but thought the election was too important to sit out.

‘I’m conflicted because I would prefer to have a different Democratic nominee, but I’m in the anyone but Trump camp,’ said Jenna Bialik-Speight, 36.

Over in Mecklenburg County, a reliable Democratic stronghold that includes Charlotte, Biden won 90 percent of the Democratic primary vote but less than 82,000 people cast ballots, or 18 percent turnout for the Democratic primary. 

If Democrats don’t get more voters to show up in November, they will be in a ‘world of hurt,’ Cooper said.

Voter turnout at 24% was down in the North Carolina primary on March 5 compared to the 2020 primary.
Professor Chris Cooper said Democrats need more voters to show up at the polls in Mecklenburg County where Charlotte is located come November

Unaffiliated votes are the wildcard in the state. They make up the largest group of registered voters in North Carolina, outnumbering Democrats and Republicans.

When it came to the state’s semi-closed primary, it meant Democrats could only vote in the Democratic primary while Republicans could only vote in the GOP primary, but unaffiliated voters could take their pick.

The data is not yet available to paint a full picture on how registered unaffiliated voters showed up on Election Day for the primary, but during early voting, two out of three unaffiliated voters participated in the Republican primary.

It suggested those voters might want to moderate the Republican primary, but based on Trump’s crushing results and more extremist candidates beating establishment ones down ballot, that did not appear to be the case. 

Perhaps, the unaffiliated voters who showed up on Tuesday were ones in name only, Cooper said. 

In Oxford, unaffiliated voter William Frazier, 32, said he voted for Haley because she was his favorite versus Biden or Trump, who he voted for in 2020, but when it comes to the general election, he will vote for Trump again, saying he was the ‘lesser of two evils.’

Four years ago, Trump won the state by less than 75,000 votes. This year, the Biden campaign sees it is the top pickup opportunity. The campaign has run early ads in the state as well as other battleground states.

In a memo shared Wednesday morning, the Biden campaign said a significant share of moderate and Haley voters across the country are saying that Trump cannot count on their votes in the general election. It also noted Haley ‘overperformed her statewide support in key suburban counties.’

Half of Haley voters said they approve of Biden’s work as president in an exit poll of North Carolina Republican primary voters.

Polling also showed nearly eight in ten would not commit to voting for the GOP nominee in November no matter who it was – a sign there could be some Biden-Haley voters in the state as Biden makes a play to get her supporters to back his reelection bid.

But there were warning signs for both Biden and Trump. Roughly two-thirds of the voters in the GOP primary identified as Republican while a third identified as Independents.

More than six in ten said they’d consider Trump fit for the presidency if he’s convicted of a crime. About the same number baselessly denied Biden’s 2020 election win was legitimate. 

But among Haley voters, only 6 percent said Trump, if convicted, would be fit to be president. The same small percentage said they did not believe Biden legitimately won the election.

Vice President Harris speaking about investing in small businesses at an event in Durham. She has visited the state ten times since becoming vice president

While Biden did not campaign in North Carolina ahead of the Democratic primary on March 5, Vice President Kamala Harris was back in the state just days before voters headed to the polls on Tuesday.

She was there for an event to announce a $32 million federal investment, not a campaign rally, but her return to the state has been one of ten since she took office. 

The event was a more intimate gathering in downtown Durham with a small crowd and brief outdoor remarks on a cold afternoon. But the visit was covered across the local news as the president and vice president have to make the case for why they deserve another four years.

Harris also met with more than seventy energized young Democrats who will be working to get out the vote this year.

Trump at a rally in Greensboro the Saturday before Super Tuesday
Crowds of Trump supporters lined up to see him speak in Greensboro on March 2

At the same time, Trump also made his way to the all-important state on Saturday where he held a rally in Greensboro before the primary. Thousands of fans waited in line hours ahead of the president’s remarks. Trump vowed to win North Carolina again come November.

What could be unique to the state is how in a Biden-Trump rematch, down ballot races could energize some to get out and vote even if there is less enthusiasm for the top of the ticket.

In the race for governor, Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein will face off against Trump- endorsed Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, a conservative firebrand whose offensive remarks have raising questions over whether he can build the necessary coalition to win a general election. He is the type of extremist candidate who struggled during the general election in 2022, but now it is a presidential election year.

The race between Robinson and Stein is expected to be one of the most contentious governor races in the country with a major impact on policy in the state from abortion rights to education.

But North Carolina is purple in a way where its voters could split tickets, and nearly anything is possible. 

Stein being on the ballot had the potential to help Biden. There is also the possibility of another year mirroring 2020 where Trump wins but a Democratic governor is elected. 

 A third option: Trump helps his MAGA loyalist Robinson get across the finish line in the Tar Heel State.

Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein speaking at his primary election night party
Republican Lt. Governor Mark Robinson speaking at an election night event

Chatting with voters in Nash County where Biden won by less than half a point in 2020 even as Trump carried the state, DailyMail.com found members of both parties showing up for Super Tuesday.

Jeff, 57, and his wife Quanla, 54, both voted for Biden. He said his biggest concern was the divisiveness in the U.S. right now. He believes Biden is the candidate to unite Americans.

‘I’m still impressed with him,’ Quanla said. She appreciated his fight to address student loans and protect voting rights.

Some other residents in the small community of Dortches would disagree.

Republican Michael Hedrick, 72, came out for Trump saying ‘everything was good’ when he was in office. His opinion of Biden: ‘I think he sucks.’

Primary turnout in the county hit 27 percent. Biden had 88 percent in his primary. Trump saw 84 percent in his. But overall, less than 19,000 people voted.

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