NORTH CAROLINA (WTVD) -- As we are officially in 2024, both major parties in the state are gearing up for a pivotal election season, and North Carolina is proving to once again be a key battleground.
North Carolina's status as a purple state is continuing the trends we saw in the 2020 Presidential Election in North Carolina - it was almost 50-50, with former President Donald Trump narrowly winning the state over Joe Biden.
And the political landscape shows the potential for another tight race in 2024. For Democrats, large population gains in major urban centers in Wake County as well as Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), along with Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Asheville led to wide margins for Biden. Biden was also able to flip New Hanover County, home to Wilmington for the first time in decades.
But Republicans meanwhile have been gaining ground over the years in rural areas which still make up a lot of our state, allowing the GOP to counterbalance the Democratic advantage in urban areas. Trump even flipped a few counties near Lumberton that had been historically blue for decades.
So with that backdrop, both parties are investing heavily in our state. On the Democratic side, party chair Anderson Clayton is already helping the Biden campaign find office space in Raleigh.
"We are really excited about how much the Biden Harris is going to be investing in North Carolina this year just because we know Joe Biden was the closest state, he only lost by 74,000 votes and so we are really excited to have organizers on the ground activating everywhere," Anderson says.
She believes a good ground game can lead to a repeat of 2008 when then-Senator Barack Obama brought together a coalition to win North Carolina for the first time in years.
But in the last three elections since - Mitt Romney in 2012, and Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020, the state has remained red.
Because of that, it's seen as a must-win state for Republicans to hold if they want to win the White House in 2024, and Wake County GOP Chair Steve Bergstrom says they have not taken those gains for granted.
"The message that we've been taking not just to North Carolinians but across the nation as I've traveled around and talked to key people in the party is that Wake County will be the key to the presidential election in 2024," Bergstrom says.
Another factor both sides will have to navigate is appealing to Unaffiliated voters, who are now the largest share of voters in North Carolina over Democrats and Republicans.
In addition to the race for President, North Carolina is also getting a lot of attention for the big race for Governor - With Governor Roy Cooper's (D) term limited, it is a wide-open race that is also expected to be close. All Council of State races as well as the legislature and Congress will also be on the ballot.