President Donald Trump is fighting to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, howling with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and warning that violent mobs are infiltrating the suburbs.
But on a recent morning along Arbor Street, a peaceful tree-lined road with stately brick Colonials and Tudors near Winston-Salem, the women who are the targets of Trump's messages were confronting much more tangible threats.
As conservative activists canvassed the neighbourhood, one young mother, a baby in her arms, shouted through a closed window that she was in quarantine.
Across the street, another was focused on teaching her children their daily lessons at the kitchen table.
And a few doors down, 49-year-old Christina Donnell, an independent who voted for Trump four years ago, said through a black face mask that Trump's terrible handling of the pandemic and divisive leadership more broadly are her chief concerns.
It's embarrassing to the country," Donnell, a lawyer who previously lived in Washington, said of Trump's leadership. He's an embarrassing role model.
In one of the nation's most consequential swing states, Trump's push to inject new dynamics into the final weeks of the 2020 election is being overshadowed by the frightening realities of everyday life during a pandemic.
Trump and his allies hope the escalating Supreme Court nomination fight will help unify a fractured Republican Party that has lost its grip on college-educated suburban voters, particularly white women.
But for many, the coronavirus and the related economic challenges are much more pressing issues.
Trump's challenge is acute here in North Carolina, a state that his senior aides describe as a must-win."
A loss in the state, which Democrats have carried only once at the presidential level in the last 30 years, would make Trump's path to a second term incredibly difficult and signal dire challenges elsewhere on the electoral map.
Public polling, backed by private discussions with strategists from both Trump's and Democrat Joe Biden's campaigns, indicate that North Carolina remains a true tossup five weeks before Election Day.
And lest there be any doubt about Trump's concerns about his standing here, he has travelled to North Carolina every week for the last five weeks, second only to Pennsylvania.
Trump's standing will also help decide races for governor and senator, a set of competitive contests that has drawn more political advertising dollars to North Carolina than any other state in the nation.
More than USD 246 million has been spent or reserved to communicate with North Carolina voters online and on television about the presidential and Senate contests so far, according to the media tracking firm Kantar-CMAG. Florida follows with USD 236 million and then Arizona with USD 223 million.
Trump has also dispatched Vice President Mike Pence to North Carolina twice over the last five weeks in addition to four visits by Trump's children.
The president's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, a North Carolina native, led a Women for Trump event in the rural eastern part of the state last week to help energize the president's base. She was scheduled to visit again on Monday.
"This is a must-win state for whoever is to become the next president," Lara Trump said in an interview.
She said the Supreme Court debate might help motivate each side's base, including some fence sitters who may not have voted at all. But she pointed to a more serious concern for suburban women.
As far as suburban women are concerned, they want safety and security. They've seen what has happened to so many of our Democrat-run cities across America," Lara Trump said.
"It is absolutely frightening to see the chaos, the destruction, the violence.
After her comments, she led an event for roughly 200 people in which the pandemic was not mentioned at all on stage or by several voters who asked questions. The Supreme Court came up only once.
The conversation was far more focused on the prospect of voter fraud, an issue President Trump has raised repeatedly as polls show him trailing, though experts report there is no significant evidence of such fraud.
As in other swing states, Democrats' closing message has been focused on health care, especially the Trump administration's ongoing court fight to overturn former President Barack Obama's health care law and the protections for those with preexisting conditions that are part of it.
Biden's team has largely relied on advertising to communicate its message, however, because the candidate himself has not been a regular presence in North Carolina or anywhere during the pandemic. Biden made his first trip as the Democratic nominee to the state last week.
His running mate, Kamala Harris, is scheduled to make her first appearance on Monday at a Raleigh event focused on health care.
He needs to pick up his game some, said former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt, a Biden ally, calling on Biden's campaign to intensify in-person canvassing.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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