Kaufman: From the mountains to the coast, a look at North Carolina

“If we win North Carolina, we’re going to win the whole thing.” -- Donald Trump, Sept. 19 in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Raleigh, North Carolina.

To win re-election, President Donald Trump must indeed hold the Tar Heel State, and if Republicans want success in coming years, they also must keep the U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina. Trump has made 14 visits to the state since his election.

Both races are considered toss-ups.

North Carolina has relatively conservative coasts and rural areas, but multiple cosmopolitan cities, northern transplants and college towns offset that advantage.

While Barack Obama nipped John McCain by a few thousand votes in 2008, Mitt Romney bounced back to win the state four years later, and George W. Bush easily triumphed twice. In fact, Obama is the only Democrat since 1976 to win North Carolina.

The state has, however, elected several Democrat U.S. senators in the past century.

While on a long September drive, my wife and I spent a day on the Outer Banks, enjoying the heat and beaches. I spoke to two folks who represent the state’s ideological diversity.

Outer Banks, North Carolina.

One was a genial guy on vacation with his friends from Jacksonville, about 150 miles south; appearing shirtless with a beer in hand, his rental house sported a Trump banner.

“There’s no contest here,” he said. “We need to save the country, and Trump has done a great job. Democrats like Biden are controlled by the far left crazies and will hurt our schools, military, economy and social fabric.”

Most coastal counties heavily supported Trump, including Onslow — where Jacksonville is the county seat — by a 2 to 1 margin.

Another person I spoke to was a faculty member at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He, his wife and young son were renting a place for the week in nearby Duck.

“I don’t know anyone who likes Trump,” he said. “Granted, I live and work near a campus in the state capital, but he’s drunk on power, and it’s time say goodbye to him. Our country hangs in the balance.”

Hillary Clinton received more than 70% of the vote in the Raleigh-Durham area.

Being on vacation, I didn’t get into more detail or ask about the Senate, but you see the clear divide with the aforementioned North Carolinians.

I contacted a friend in Asheville for more in-depth comments. A school principal originally from New York, he also lived in Indiana and South Carolina before relocating to western North Carolina. A conservative Christian, he has two children and seven grandkids.

“While I struggle to like Trump as a person, and I consider some of his behavior unpresidential, I cannot and will not vote for an individual and a party that favors not just abortion but the killing of newborn babies,” he explained. “As a student of world philosophies, I will not vote for socialism because I know that its utopian end goal is the communist state. And I won’t vote for a party or candidate forcing racism upon us in its in-your-face forms.”

Asheville, North Carolina.

The U.S. Senate race is similar for him.

“I don’t like some of what Thom Tillis has done or stands for, but I don’t trust Cal Cunningham,” he said. “Much of the Asheville community is liberal, and Cunningham is catering his focus to appeal to them. This is in contrast to his TV ads proclaiming himself a conservative patriot.”

A husband and father, Cunningham admitted Saturday he sent inappropriate romantic texts to a former staffer.

Lastly, he spoke of his local congressional race.

“By far, the easiest vote I intend to cast is for Madison Cawthorn,” he proclaimed. “He’s the young man who spoke at the RNC and stood from his wheelchair to support our flag, anthem, and the patriots who provide our freedoms. While Asheville is very liberal, it’s surrounded by conservative-minded suburban and country folks. Their silence makes this election difficult to read. However, I won’t be surprised if they show up and vote much like I plan, and for many of the same reasons.“

Buncombe County, where Asheville is the county seat, is a bellwether county. The region voted for the winning candidate each presidential race from 1928 to 2012, except for 1960 and 2016.

Clinton took nearly 55% countywide last time, though every surrounding county went to Trump, many at over 75%.

Commentator Eric Bolling, one of the president’s biggest cheerleaders, recently told Bill O’Reilly, “North Carolina is going to be the state he has to win to win it, because there are other paths, but it would not [work] without North Carolina.”

Unfortunately, nearly a half-million North Carolinians — probably 10% of this year’s electorate — have been voting for nearly a month, missing out on crucial information like we heard Friday morning.

Most of the world long ago wisely banned mail-in voting. Why can’t we learn from them?