Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Election 2024: Charlotte Republicans Watch Trump at RNC

By meerna Jul11,2024
Election 2024: Charlotte Republicans Watch Trump at RNC

Local delegates and political strategists say that with the right strategy, former President Donald Trump could win support from Charlotte-area voters at the Republican National Convention.

The Republican Party will gather in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, next week to formally nominate Trump, who will seek to unseat incumbent Democrat Joe Biden if Biden remains in the race. The party released its official platform on Monday, and for the first time in 40 years, it does not include a call for a nationwide abortion ban. Other agenda items include calls to “seal the border,” end inflation and cut taxes.

Both campaigns are competing to win voters in the most populous metropolitan area of ​​this key state, where Republicans say they want to see a focus on issues such as the economy, public safety and protecting the nation.

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And they see a window of time after Biden’s debate that casts doubt on his credibility as a candidate.

“Republicans need to be strategic, appealing to voters for common sense solutions,” said Delegate Sarah Reidy-Jones.

The convention is an opportunity for the Trump campaign to “set an agenda for voters,” said Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University.

“If Republicans are successful, they will set an agenda based on issues that people trust them on and trust them more than they trust the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates,” he said.

Local GOP strategist Larry Shaheen summed up his opinion of the convention in five words: “It’s a Don’t Look Crazy project.”

Mecklenburg Republicans: Trump Could Gain Advantage Here

Sarah Reidy-Jones, seen in a photo from the 2008 Republican National Convention, will be a delegate from North Carolina to this year’s nominating convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Brought to you by Sarah Reidy-Jones

Reidy-Jones, who chaired the Mecklenburg GOP from 2021 to 2023, noted that voters in and around Charlotte are “no strangers to courting in presidential years.” Mecklenburg County reliably votes for the Blue Party, but its large population means it is also one of the state’s largest sources of Republican votes. And many of its more suburban areas and surrounding counties have more GOP-friendly constituencies.

Biden won Mecklenburg by a margin of 66.7% to 31.6% in 2020, while Hillary Clinton defeated Trump in the county with 62.3% of the vote in 2016. But victories in counties like Cabarrus, Iredell and Union helped Trump secure statewide victories in both elections.

Reidy-Jones hopes her party will use the convention to share its take on inflation, border security, public safety and school choice: issues she believes will resonate with undecided voters in her community. The Republican platform calls for mass deportations of undocumented immigrants, a new missile defense system and schools losing federal funding if they teach “critical race theory, radical gender ideology, or other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content.”

“As a suburban soccer mom target, I’ve felt the pressure of these issues firsthand. I worry about whether I’m going to be able to eat, whether I’m going to feel safe in my neighborhood, and I’ve seen the school system fail,” she said. “My husband and I have the same conversations that everyone here has: Are we better off than we were four years ago? And the answer is no. Voters want to feel like there’s relief coming.”

Rep. Rion Choate, a longtime Trump supporter from Charlotte, said the former president could connect with Mecklenburg voters by talking about taxes, voter ID laws and national security issues in Ukraine, North Korea and China.

The Republican 2024 platform calls for “big tax cuts for workers” and voter ID requirements. Trump became the first sitting president to visit North Korea in 2019. He repeatedly said on the campaign trail that he could end the war between Russia and Ukraine.

“We have to get back to America first,” Choate said.

Larry Shaheen said the Republican Party’s 2024 platform could be a starting point for connecting with Charlotte-area voters “who have been turned off” by Trump but aren’t fully committed to the Democratic ticket.

“This platform is meant to attract moderate people from the suburbs,” he said.

Could Changing the Abortion Agenda Help Trump?

The change in language on abortion in the platform, which the Associated Press reported was prompted by Trump, is an example of the party trying to sell itself “to voters we may have lost,” Shaheen said. North Carolina Democrats have singled out abortion as a campaign issue after it proved to be a winning strategy for the party in other states since the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“A lot of Republicans, like me, are really happy to potentially drop this issue,” he said.

Cooper said the change on abortion is a sign that the Trump campaign does not believe the issue is “electorally advantageous” to Republicans.

“Could that make a difference in a state like North Carolina? Sure,” he said of the change. “If the state is as close as we expect, or at least as close as it has been in the last few cycles, then being anti-abortion is, I think, a very smart strategy for the Republican Party and for Donald Trump in particular.”

Reidy-Jones said she believes the U-turn on abortion reflects the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which “put this issue back in the hands of the states.”

“We need to focus on showing what strengths we would have with a Trump presidency over a Biden presidency,” she said of abortion as a campaign issue. “Including stronger national security, safer streets and stopping the inflation that affects every household.”

How much do conventions matter?

As conventions have become more choreographed coronations than floor battles over who should be the party’s nominee, they have also become “less important” in influencing voters, Cooper noted. But they are still, he added, “basically free advertising for a political party.”

“You can’t convince a lot of people, but you can set an agenda for the media,” he said. “You can set an agenda for the voters.”

He predicted that Republicans would likely see the typical “slight bump” in the polls after their convention.

“The reason I call it a bounce and not a bulge is because bounces come back down, and that’s what we’re seeing with the conventions right now,” he said.

Shaheen said the recent unrest on the Democratic side, where Biden has been beset by questions about his age and health, gives Republicans an opportunity to make a bigger impression with their convention than usual.

Republicans would be wise to present a “counter-image” to “the Democrats who are in catastrophic chaos,” he said.

“If Republicans stick to their message — one that tries to appeal to suburban and urban voters — they have a chance to take a lead and potentially build on that lead,” he said.

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Mary Ramsey is a local government accountability reporter for The Charlotte Observer. A native of the Carolinas, she studied journalism at the University of South Carolina and has also worked in Phoenix, Arizona, and Louisville, Kentucky.
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