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Takeaways from the campaigning to win over rural voters in swing-state North Carolina

OXFORD, N.C. (AP) — President Joe Biden and Donald Trump have their sights on a handful of battleground states in the White House race, and North Carolina is one of them.
Democratic candidates Rep. Don Davis and state Rep. Terence Everitt listen to speakers at the Granville County Democratic Party fundraiser in Oxford, N.C., while standing among other attendees on Friday, May 10, 2024. The candidates told guests that Granville County could have serious implications on the outcome of the 2024 election. (AP Photo/Makiya Seminera)

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

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

Both Democrats and Republicans hope face-to-face 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 begun.

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

Spending war for North Carolina's airwaves

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

That gap widens even further when looking 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 with $25,000 reserved by one Republican political action committee. Those reservations are subject to change as races come into focus.

The Raleigh-Durham area makes up a significant portion of advertising spending in North Carolina for both parties: almost $2 million for Democrats and more than $138,000 for Republicans. The area skews heavily Democratic, but it also borders counties such as Granville and Franklin that voted for Trump in 2020.

Tuning out the election

As a rematch of 2020 takes shapes, many people in the United States are not paying much attention to the election.

About 4 in 10 Americans in a Pew Research Center poll conducted in April said they are not following news about candidates in presidential contest too closely or at all. Younger adults are less likely than older ones to be following election news.

Many people already find the election exhausting, even if they are not tuned in. About 6 in 10 U.S. adults in the poll say they are worn out by so much coverage of the campaign and candidates. Those not following closely are especially likely to say they are exhausted.

Trump's record with North Carolina's rural 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 parts of North Carolina, but if they can keep the margins close, they have a better chance to take advantage of their strength in the state's urban areas.

Previous election results show that appealing to North Carolina's rural voters may be easier for Republican Trump than for Democrat Biden.

In 2020, 64 rural counties backed Trump while only 14 went for Biden. Compared with his 2016 campaign, Trump's winning margin grew in most rural counties four years ago.

Possible openings for Democrats

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

Before Trump, Granville County was considered a blue rural county. Democrat Barack Obama won it in 2008 and 2012. It's one of six counties in North Carolina that made the pivot from Obama to Trump.

Makiya Seminera, The Associated Press

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