Dueling presidential rallies for Donald Trump in Raleigh and Hillary Clinton in Charlotte on Tuesday—with President Obama by her side—proved that North Carolina is very important to these candidates. For Trump, North Carolina is a must-win; there are few viable paths to 270 electoral votes without it. For Clinton, winning the Tar Heel state would all but guarantee her the White House.
As of Monday, the Real Clear Politics average of polls had Clinton up in North Carolina by less than a percentage point. To quote the eminently quotable Dan Rather, "This race is tight like a too-small bathing suit on a too-long ride home from the beach."
As The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch reported this week, the Clinton campaign's North Carolina strategy is "a blend of confidence ... and concern." The concern is that Trump could do better than expected in traditionally Democratic Rust Belt states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Denying him North Carolina—or, for that matter, red states like Georgia or Arizona that have substantial minority populations—would effectively foreclose Trump's already-steep path to 270.
The joint Clinton-Obama campaign appearance—which took place after we went to press Tuesday—was their first of this election. (A previous joint rally, canceled after the massacre at an Orlando nightclub, was scheduled for Wisconsin.) Democratic candidates Roy Cooper and Deborah Ross were on the guest list. (Worth noting: Cooper and Ross both skipped a solo Hillary rally at the State Fairgrounds last month. It seems a photo op with the president—who, while underwater in North Carolina, is still more popular than Clinton or Trump—was enough to get them to clear their schedules.)
It wasn't clear by press time which North Carolina Republican officials, if any, would make an appearance alongside Trump, who spent the weekend of Clinton's FBI interview defending his campaign's tweet of an anti-Semitic Hillary meme that originated on a white supremacist website. On Tuesday morning, we learned Governor McCrory and Richard Burr were both going to be out of state. Or maybe washing their hair.