Opinion: Why North Carolina is ‘the’ battleground state

As the eyes of the political world turn to Charlotte this week for the Democratic National convention, speculation about the fate of North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes on Nov. 6 continues. Depending on who you ask or which electoral map you’re consulting, the Tar Heel State is a safe bet for Mitt Romney one day and a toss-up the next; one week it’s the moderate “New South” and the next it’s leaning back toward its Deep South neighbors. In 21 of the 22 polls conducted by Public Policy Polling since the 2010 election, President Obama and Romney have been within 3 points of each other, and several other recent polls show a statistical dead heat. One certainty remains: North Carolina’s status as THE battleground state to watch is here to stay.

My family’s North Carolina roots date back to the 1860s, so for me the story of our state’s transformation over the last half-century from a largely rural, conservative southern state into a diverse, dynamic and increasingly globalized center of industry and innovation is personal. Charlotte embodies this can-do spirit of transformation and progress: more than half of the country’s textile mills were once located within a hundred-mile radius; today, more than half of the Fortune 500 companies have operations in the Queen City, representing industries ranging from finance to auto parts to a hub of energy innovation. The largest city in North Carolina, we also have the second largest public hospital system in our nation.

Along with North Carolina’s economic transformation, our state has also become more diverse both ethnically and geographically. Over the last decade, the state’s minority population grew from 28 percent to 35 percent of the total population, and over the last two decades we’ve seen an increase in the state’s non-native born population. Growing up in North Carolina, I was part of the first generation to learn firsthand that no wall is too high or too strong to be broken down when we work together as we did when our public schools were desegregated. Then-Senator Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaOn North Korea, give Trump some credit The mainstream media — the lap dogs of the deep state and propaganda arm of the left The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Frenzy over Kennedy retirement rumors | Trump challenges DOJ MORE’s historic win in North Carolina in 2008 by a mere 14,000 votes reflected these underlying changes, not just the political winds of the moment. 

Since then, the president has worked tirelessly to maintain our investments in the things that have made our state the global center of knowledge and innovation that it is today. To North Carolinians, it’s simple: our investments in education, research and infrastructure have transformed our state. Companies are deciding to move here because of our smart, innovative, well-educated workforce. Obama shares our belief in ensuring children have access to the quality education that is the key to economic opportunity and a brighter future. But even beyond that, it’s what keeps our economy growing and thriving.

Charlotte has been a leader in the state as North Carolina’s economy recovers. Businesses in the metro area have now created more than 20,000 net jobs since Obama took office, and more than 55,000 since February 2010. Manufacturing is on the rebound, and even job creation in the financial sector is back above water.

Obama’s grassroots organization, Organizing for America North Carolina (OFA NC), has been working since 2008 to connect with voters across our state, talking about the choice we face in this election. The Democratic National Convention has proven to be a powerful organizing tool in support of these efforts, generating enthusiasm and excitement throughout our state. This summer, OFA NC launched its 9-3-1 program, where volunteers who completed three shifts totaling nine hours of volunteer work were able to reserve a community credential to attend the president’s historic speech on Thursday. Through this program, more than 6,000 volunteers completed more than 54,000 volunteer hours of work to help reelect the president.

North Carolina is every bit as much in play as it was in 2008, and we could not be more excited to welcome the president and the convention participants to Charlotte this week. Obama’s vision for an America that out-builds and out-educates its competitors — with the public and private sectors working together to create jobs, grow the economy and expand opportunity — is the same spirit and vision that has transformed our state into the diverse and dynamic leader in the global economy it is today. And it is the same vision that will carry the president to victory again in 2012.

Foxx is mayor of Charlotte, N.C.