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North Carolina the Hot Spot; Biden Rallies Greensboro with Calls for Unity

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Greensboro, NC--Since North Carolina has emerged as a battleground state in the presidential race, it's getting difficult to keep up with which candidate is appearing where on which day. On Monday, October, 27, Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden rolled into Greensboro. On Tuesday, Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain visited Fayetteville, following running mate Gov. Sarah Palin's stop in Asheville over the weekend.

Actress Edie Falco of "The Sopranos" fame made her own appearance in Greensboro on Tuesday to rally on behalf of Sen. Barack Obama. Then on Wednesday, Obama is scheduled to speak in Raleigh; his wife Michelle will hold an event in Rocky Mount.

For Biden, Monday's stop was the latest in a busy week spent crisscrossing North Carolina. All the attention is due to polls that show Obama and McCain running a hotly contested race in the once solidly Republican state. Early voting results favor the Democrats, however. According to the N.C. State Board of Elections, more than 1 million people have voted, with 58% of those being registered Democrats.

Democratic supporters in Greensboro say they aren't taking anything for granted with just a week until Election Day and turned out on an unusually cool autumn day to hear Biden speak in a tree-lined downtown park. "It's exciting to see how the campaign is progressing," said Ginny Olson, 32. "But I hate to get cocky. Let's just say I'm cautiously optimistic about Obama's chances."

Olson was one of a lucky few selected to sit behind Biden and provide a backdrop of sign-waving supporters for the news cameras, and she was impressed with what Biden had to say. "He knew the facts of the impact of the mortgage crisis here in North Carolina," said Olson. "We need a knowledgeable vice president."

Biden's speech to the crowd at Greensboro's Price Bryan Performance Place included promises to cut taxes for small businesses and families, to provide assistance for college tuition and to make health care more affordable. He also recommended a three-month moratorium on home foreclosures in order to give time for homeowners to renegotiate with lenders.

The biggest cheers from supporters came in response to his call to responsibly end the war in Iraq and a pledge to help create more jobs in the state through support of projects like highway improvements.

More cheers rose from the crowd as Biden used the upcoming Halloween holiday to begin his attacks on McCain, saying, "McCain dressed up as an agent of change is a costume that just won't fit."

Biden continued the Democratic ticket's efforts to paint a McCain presidency as merely a continuation of the unpopular Bush administration. "You can't call yourself a maverick when, during the last eight years, you've only been a sidekick," said Biden.

His speech was also crafted to rally supporters to vote and do their part to put Obama in the White House. He accused the Republican ticket of trying to divide and scare people and listed past presidents whose opponents tried to depict them as "dangerous" if elected. "We'll only succeed if we're united," said Biden. "We're one nation, we're all Americans, and we all love our country. Barack Obama will make a great president."

That sentiment appealed to Olson and friend Tom Hardin, 61. "Biden's enthusiasm was infectious," said Hardin. "I've never had a [campaign] sign in my yard or a bumper sticker on my car until this year." Hardin has also been canvassing Greensboro neighborhoods as an Obama campaign volunteer.

Biden's call for unity was also on the mind of Nicole Leonard, 38, another friend of Olson's. She said that she's concerned the Republican attacks on Obama and Biden may overwhelm some undecided or swing voters. "I just hope people will vote for change," she said, thinking in particular about her 83-year-old grandmother, a registered Democrat who frequently votes Republican. "She doesn't know who she's voting for yet--but I'm trying to help her out!"