Biden rallied support in North Carolina’s booming metropolitan areas and suburbs, winning white college voters who had strongly opposed Trump’s policies. However, the former vice president was faced with trends that were pushing the other way in rural and suburban communities that leaned towards Trump during his presidency and gave him the edge in North Carolina votes.
Trump won the state 3.6 percentage points over Hillary Clinton in 2016 when North Carolina once again escaped the Democrats after Barack Obama’s 2008 victory. Biden formed an older, whiter, more suburban coalition than his former ticket mate: Obama lost 20 points in North Carolina in 2008 with college graduates, but Biden regularly led them during the fall polls and shared them with Trump in the poll to exit the National Electoral pool.
Trump, meanwhile, pushed Republican support higher and higher in rural areas and among white workers, as he did in many places during his presidency.
Biden and Kamala Harris’ events in the state focused almost entirely on motivating black turnout, an important polling bloc that wasn’t as strong for Democrats in 2016.
Biden’s potential path in North Carolina has already been largely pointed out to him by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, who also took part in the election for a second term this year. Cooper, a moderator like Biden, won in 2016 by cutting GOP margins in suburban boroughs that strongly opposed Trump in 2020.
The Trump campaign also fought hard to keep North Carolina in its column, regularly sending Trump and his deputies to hold events there throughout the fall.
But Trump’s handling of the coronavirus has been a serious issue for voters, despite Trump’s lead over Biden in voter approval for the economy. Trump often complained about the coronavirus at his rallies, describing the pandemic as trouble and telling voters on October 21 in Gastonia, NC that “all you hear is Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid”.
At the same time, North Carolina watched the number of coronavirus cases rise again, with nearly 2,000 new cases emerging on the same day as Trump’s comments.