With Trump as GOP’s choice, Dems eye North Carolina comeback

Published 9:52 am Tuesday, May 10, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Four years ago, North Carolina was the one that got away for Democrats — the only battleground state President Barack Obama didn’t carry in his resounding re-election triumph.

Now, with Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket and state GOP officials embroiled in a contentious fight over transgender rights, Democrats see a ripe opportunity for likely nominee Hillary Clinton to grab North Carolina back in November, as well as boost her party’s prospects in competitive races for Senate and governor.

“Trump just opens up possibilities, opportunities for Democrats to say, look, this is at least a possible winnable race in North Carolina,” said John Dinan, a politics professor at Wake Forest University.

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Obama stunned Republicans by carrying North Carolina in 2008, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate had won the state in more than 30 years. Democrats saw his winning coalition of young people, black voters and Hispanics as a model for how the party could regain a foothold in the South as the region becomes more diverse.

But that excitement was tempered after Republicans consolidated power throughout the state during Obama’s first term and North Carolinians frustrated with a sluggish state economy rebuked the president in 2012.

This fall’s fight for North Carolina will probably be shadowed by the mounting legal battle over a new state law restricting the use of public restrooms by transgender people.