RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As former President Donald Trump and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley square off in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, North Carolina Republicans are preparing for Super Tuesday and beyond.
"I definitely feel that if (Haley) doesn't get at least a 40% or more, she's going to lose a lot of support," said Courtney Geels, a former Congressional candidate who currently serves as the Republican Chair for the 4th District of North Carolina.
Following Trump's dominant victory in the Iowa caucus last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Alabama Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy all dropped out of the race; both DeSantis and Ramaswamy have since endorsed Trump, while Hutchinson endorsed Haley.
"I think a lot of people who were voting for those two candidates, they're going to put their their support behind Trump," Geels said, though she downplayed the importance of their respective endorsements.
According to 538 polling averages, Trump holds nearly an 18 point lead over Haley in the Granite State, despite her more consistent presence in both campaigning across the state and earning the endorsement of Gov. Chris Sununu.
Like New Hampshire, North Carolina's largest voting bloc is independent or unaffiliated voters.
"In a state as closely divided as ours, those candidates, those messages, the issues that people are focused on can absolutely change the outcome of one of these races," said NC State Political Science Professor Dr. Steven Greene.
The cross-ballot voting has been seen in recent North Carolina elections, in which Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, and Donald Trump each carried the state in 2016 and 2020, respectively. Immanuel Jarvis, the former Durham County GOP Chair who now serves as the President of the Frederick Douglass Foundation of North Carolina, believes Republicans have a voter enthusiasm edge in 2024, as he highlighted efforts to engage in voter outreach to new residents and students in one of the fastest-growing states in the country.
"We need to talk about what are the policies that created that environment. And so when people are coming from out-of-state here, they can hold and keep those type of same type of qualities by how they vote and how they're electing their leaders," said Jarvis.
He pointed to the economy as the key issue in this race.
"When you start to feel that all of a sudden you used to have about $400 left over after all your bills are paid, and now you don't have $400. Maybe I need to pick up another part-time job, or maybe I need to go back to school because maybe I'm not making enough," Jarvis said.
Jarvis, who has lived in Durham County for more than two decades and owns a farm with his wife, discussed the importance of candidates addressing voter concerns.
"I think what they want to hear from any candidate, it's not about Republican or Democrat, is that who is going to be able to create an environment so that economic development continues to flourish. Bottom line, if we see what we're seeing right now, more and more of our fellow North Carolinians cannot afford their rent. They're homeless. If you just look around, you could see the encampments growing in Raleigh and in Durham. This is not because people are choosing to live outside. They're living outside because they don't have a choice. And I think North Carolinians just want a fair shot. They just want to make sure there's not encumbrances or stumbling blocks in their way if their business. There needs to be regulations to make sure we're protecting people and also property, but also we need to make sure that we're never do anything that impedes progress and growth," said Jarvis.
While Haley has vowed to stay in the race through South Carolina's primary next month, Geels believed a resounding Trump victory early in the process could aid him in maximizing resources.
"It's good to have unity among the party and unity really among Americans and being able to talk about the issues that matter to all Americans, not just Republicans," said Geels.
On the other end of the spectrum, Greene discussed a potential unintended impact that could have on down-ballot races.
"We have really important decisions to make here in North Carolina about who is going to represent the parties and candidates for governor most prominently, but the whole Council of State. And there's some real differences and these things matter. And the sad reality is we're going to get way less turnout and attention to this because the top of the ticket is going to be settled," said Greene.
It's why Geels believes that down-ballot candidates need to tailor their specific messages to voters.
"With the federal government, they have certain roles to play, and local government and state government have a lot of roles to play. I think education is a hot topic right now when it comes to state politics or even local politics and so those candidates really need to focus on that issue, whereas the federal government needs to look at more international relations," said Geels.
"Most states do not have a gubernatorial election the same year as a presidential election. We do. I think it's quite likely that abortion is going to be a really substantial issue in our election here in North Carolina because of the governor's race, and the role that state politics now plays and abortion laws. I suspect that it may play more of a role in presidential votes here in North Carolina as well," said Greene.
North Carolina's primary is on March 5th, part of the Super Tuesday slate.