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Takeaways from the campaign to win over rural voters in the swing state of North Carolina

OXFORD, N.C. (AP) — Chairman Joe Biden and Donald Trump have their sights set on a handful of battleground states in the battle for the White House, and North Carolina is one of them.

Rural voters in particular will play an important role in both campaigns, but the candidates will have to overcome voters’ indifference, fatigue and even disgust.

Both Democrats and Republicans hope personal contact will help them make their case. In places like Granville County, a swing county tucked between the Raleigh-Durham area and the Virginia state line, that has already started.

Here are some key takeaways from an examination of the campaign less than five months before the November general election.

Waging war for the North Carolina airwaves

When it comes to ad spending in North Carolina, Democrats outnumber Republicans by a nearly 4-to-1 margin, AdImpact data shows. As of June 7, Democratic groups had spent more than $4 million, compared to about $1 million from Republicans in the state.

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That gap widens as we look ahead to the fall. For reserved ad slots between June 8 and Election Day, Democrats have spent more than $5.6 million so far, compared to $25,000 set aside by a Republican political action committee. These reservations may change as races come into focus.

The Raleigh-Durham area represents a significant portion of North Carolina ad spending for both parties: nearly $2 million for Democrats and more than $138,000 for Republicans. The area is heavily Democratic, but also borders counties like Granville and Franklin that voted for Trump in 2020.

Postpone the elections

While a 2020 rematch is shaping up, many people in the United States aren’t paying much attention to the election.

About 4 in 10 Americans said in an April Pew Research Center poll that they don’t follow news about the presidential candidates too closely or at all. Younger adults are less likely to follow election news than older adults.

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Many people already find the elections tiring, even if they are not tuned in. About six-in-ten American adults in the poll say they are exhausted by so much coverage of the campaign and the candidates. Especially those who don’t follow it closely are likely to say they are exhausted.

Trump’s record in rural North Carolina counties

In a state with the second-highest rural population in the country, winning over those voters is essential. Democrats may not win outright in rural North Carolina, but if they can keep margins close, they will have a better chance of capitalizing on their strength in the state’s urban areas.

Previous election results show that it may be more attractive for Republican Trump to appeal to voters in rural North Carolina than for Democrat Biden.

In 2020, 64 rural counties supported Trump, while only 14 chose Biden. Compared to his 2016 campaign, Trump’s winning margin grew in most rural counties four years ago.

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Possible openings for Democrats

A handful of rural counties could be more competitive. Granville County, for example, had one of the tightest margins of victory for Trump — 53% in 2020 — among rural counties. That was a jump of 3 percentage points compared to 2016, when he narrowly won against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Before Trump, Granville County was considered a blue rural county. Democrat Barack Obama won the elections in 2008 and 2012. It is one of six counties in North Carolina that switched from Obama to Trump.

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