With Mitt Romney giving a “prebuttal” speech with Bank of America Stadium in the background, we can now officially signal the beginning of the general campaign in North Carolina.
But even though North Carolina’s May primary won’t be as active as four years ago, it appears the groundwork for November is well underway, either in terms of mobilization (as in “get out the vote”) or staking a presence in the state.
The warning signals are all there. First, there is the quiet “field operations” of the Obama campaign’s organization within the state. With no battle for the nomination (unlike four years ago), the president’s campaign has used the time to lay the foundation for a real contest in North Carolina by staffing various field offices around the state.
This organization mirrors what Obama was able to do in North Carolina with the late primary battle in 2008. By having an extensive ground game and organization established months before the 2008 general election, the Obama campaign was able to turn a ruby-red Republican state in 2004 to a deep-hue of purple toss-up.
By not having a competitive primary challenge on May 8th (perhaps Gingrich can make Romney work for the state, but one would have believe the overall deal is done with his presumptive nomination), Romney needs to begin making North Carolina competitive. He can’t afford the same mistake as the McCain campaign did four years ago and take the state for granted.
With the “prebuttal” address and by using the backdrop where Obama will accept his party’s nomination, Romney is making a claim in the heart of the Democrat’s Tar Heel strategy—straight into Charlotte as the location of the Democrat’s national convention.
Romney’s commitment to raise $800 million in conjunction with the national party means the presumptive Republican presidential nominee will have the resources to enable a Republican foundation constructed in various competitive states—including North Carolina.
While a lot of the techniques and strategies of modern campaigning goes unnoticed by the larger electorate early in the campaign season, the hints are already there. Welcome to the general election North Carolina — it’s gonna be a bumpy ride to November.