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Donald Trump Campaign Largely Ignores Swing State Of North Carolina


Donald Trump says he's a different kind of presidential candidate. He has his own playbook. But he also lacks what most major party candidates have - a lot of money in his campaign fund. One place where that's clear is the big battleground state of North Carolina. Democrat Hillary Clinton is pouring in cash, but there's hardly a trace of Donald Trump.

From member station WFAE, Tom Bullock reports on what that disparity looks like.

TOM BULLOCK, BYLINE: If you turn on a TV here in North Carolina, you're likely to see an ad like this.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: For Hillary, it's always been about kids. And when millions couldn't get health care, this first lady worked with Republicans and Democrats to fix it.

BULLOCK: This is part of what the Hillary Clinton campaign says is a six-week-long, eight-figure ad blitz not just in North Carolina but in all the big battleground states. The Trump campaign's response has been nothing. This seeming surrender in the ad war in a crucial swing state has left political watchers gobsmacked. Michael Bitzer with Catawba College is one of them.

MICHAEL BITZER: For somebody who studies modern campaigns and election strategy, I have to be thinking, boy, this is this is a huge tactical error on the part of the Trump campaign.

BULLOCK: It's not just ads. Trump has no official campaign offices in the state and just one North Carolina staffer on the payroll. The Trump campaign did not reply to our interview requests, but in the past, Trump has countered these kinds of arguments by saying he's running a leaner, more cost efficient campaign. But that's risky in a state Mitt Romney won in 2012 by less than 2 percent.

TROY CLAIR: You got to put some shoe leather down, and you got to get out there, have to get on the phones. You have to register voters, and you have to show people that you're here.

BULLOCK: That's Troy Clair, state director for Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign.

CLAIR: It was not a given that the campaign would invest in North Carolina. And we are doing that and investing seriously and competing seriously.

BULLOCK: Clinton already has 60 staffers in the state and plans to open six new field offices in the next few weeks. They train and organize volunteers and manage get-out-the-vote efforts. Trump has effectively outsourced those tasks to the Republican National Committee and the North Carolina Republican Party.

ROBIN HAYES: We have had paid staff on the ground since 2013.

BULLOCK: That's Republican Robin Hayes, chairman of the state party. And the staff he's referring to are more than 40 people paid for not by Trump but by the RNC.

HAYES: So we are well-prepared, but we are not slowing down. We're building from a great start into what should be a very successful November 8 finish.

BULLOCK: But this can be a risk for a presidential candidate known for clashing with other Republicans. None of those staffers work for Trump. Their loyalties are to the party, not the candidate. Even if outsourcing much of the campaign's work to the RNC is a success, political scientist Michael Bitzer believes Trump's failure to run an ad campaign will haunt him.

BITZER: You've got to have an effective air war. And if Hillary Clinton's air war campaign has already started, it's awfully hard to play defense rather than to be on offense.

BULLOCK: If Trump loses in North Carolina, the consequences may be felt further down the ballot in a state where a Republican governor and U.S. senator are in tough re-election races. For NPR News, I'm Tom Bullock in Charlotte, N.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tom Bullock
Tom Bullock decided to trade the khaki clad masses and traffic of Washington DC for Charlotte in 2014. Before joining WFAE, Tom spent 15 years working for NPR. Over that time he served as everything from an intern to senior producer of NPR’s Election Unit. Tom also spent five years as the senior producer of NPR’s Foreign Desk where he produced and reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon among others. Tom is looking forward to finally convincing his young daughter, Charlotte, that her new hometown was not, in fact, named after her.