‘The Women Around Him Are Accessories to His Brand’

“I don’t know many undecided people period,” said Egleston, the Charlotte city councilman. “I’ve spoken to thousands of voters this year. None of them were undecided!” said Jackson, the state senator. “I literally don’t know a single person who is undecided,” said Ray McKinnon, a Black pastor, a Democratic National Committee member and a longtime Bernie Sanders supporter who didn’t think twice voting by mail already for Biden. “I feel like everybody’s so decided at this point,” said Sarah Reidy-Jones, the vice chair of the Mecklenburg County Republican Party. “People that I talk to,” said Carolyn Eberly, a Democratic activist in the Charlotte suburb of Waxhaw, “they know exactly who they’re voting for.”

And a voter who’s been swayed specifically one way or another by the fact that Trump is set to put on the Supreme Court the third justice of his first term?

“If you find one, let me know,” Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina, told me.

“I’m not aware of someone” like that, said John Faircloth, a Republican who represents Summerfield in the state house.

“I haven’t encountered that unicorn,” added Michael Garrett, a Democrat who represents Summerfield in the state senate.

Garrett, 36, embodies one of the major ways this state is changing that make it so politically potent. “I’m a freshman in the state senate, and I flipped this seat in 2018, and it was a 1-percent difference,” he said. “We’re seeing more college-educated voters, more young families, moving here, because of the cost of living and the quality of life”—the Greensboro and Winston-Salem version of a trend transforming the demographics around the bigger cities of Raleigh and Charlotte as well.

Garrett noted that the Supreme Court has come up more albeit still sporadically in the last week in his regular conversations with constituents. “Earlier in the cycle, the Supreme Court rarely came up,” he said. “The past few days, a lot of the conversation I have had with undecided voters, the Supreme Court comes up maybe 20 percent of the time—and the 20 percent of the time is people are motivated against the president rather than for him, for the most part. They don’t like, I think, the hypocrisy that has been on display in Washington. … We expect better of our children, so you definitely would expect more of U.S. senators.”

The 2018 midterms that sent Garrett to Raleigh were driven and defined by women—women who voted in droves in essence against Trump. More women than ever before in essence ran against Trump. Women, from New Jersey’s Mikie Sherrill to the rest of the roster, won more than 60 percent of the seats Democrats flipped to take back control of the House of Representatives. This filtered down the ballot. A personal snapshot: Where I live, in the suburbs north of Charlotte, going into 2018 I was represented in the state legislature and on the county commission by three Republican men. Coming out of 2018? Three Democratic women.

It’s good to be reminded, though, that midterm elections are not presidential elections. The turnout is just not the same. So, broadly indicative of political shifts? Sure. Foolproof predictive? No.

“Honestly,” Turan, the pro-Trump cancer center financial counselor, asked me earnestly, “what’s the purpose of voting midterm?”

It’s good to be reminded, too, of what matters, and more materially what doesn’t, to actual undecided voters. Impact Social, a company that has offices in London and Washington, for months has been tracking the social media chatter of 40,000 “floating” Trump-Biden swing voters, and last week’s report—the first after Ginsburg’s death—indicated the topic of the Supreme Court is for the most part a nonstarter for people who aren’t firmly in either camp. The takeaway: “… while this may be a big issue for more tribal citizens it is proving a damp squib among our group.”

Here at Bugle Boy Farm, among the women with the “MAGA” brooches and the bedazzled caps and cowboy hats, I heard about the court because I asked about the court. And what I heard was not gender-based or even about views on abortion. What I heard was proof they’re internalizing Trump’s inveterate talk of how this election (if he loses) will be “rigged” and “a whole big scam.”

“It’s a good thing for Trump,” said Karen Mitchell from nearby Rockingham County, “because I think the Supreme Court—it’s going to be trying to figure out the voter fraud that’s coming up. You know, for them to just mail out every single person a ballot, you’re going to have voter fraud. It’s going to happen. There are stacks of ballots being marked right now, and they’re going to be put in a drawer and a cabinet and a trunk of a car, and they’re going to be popping out somewhere …”

And Lara Trump, who characterized Biden as “the true Trojan horse for the far left radical socialists who are running the Democrat party,” her father-in-law as a God-sent savior who “was chosen for this time” and the women on hand as “our frontline soldiers” in this election, in the context of the court stressed this, too.

“If you thought it was crazy before, it just ratcheted up like a thousand points,” she said of the run-up to Election Day. “But we see why this is so important. I mean, this is important, because in all likelihood, this election could end up at the Supreme Court. We need a ninth justice on the bench to make sure we have the answer to this election. Now, we all already know that it is going to be a huge victory on November 3rd for Donald Trump, right?”

More cheers. Dark now. And when Lara Trump was done, these women stood up, buoyant. Penned in by fences under a waxing crescent moon, they danced, responding to the campaign’s practically Pavlovian set piece codas. “Eye of the Tiger.” “Beat It.” “YMCA.” The crowd clustered and clamored to watch the big pink bus pull away.

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