Less than an hour before early voting opened Thursday at most Wake County precincts, big-name Democrats rolled into N.C. State University's Brickyard to make sure the party's longstanding focus on the "ground-game" pays off, from the presidential race all the way down the ballot.
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a U.S. Representative from South Florida, who seves as Chair of the Democratic National Committee, boasted about Charlotte's role in the Democratic National Convention to a crowd that was equal parts reporters and students.
When asked about a recent report that large in-kind contributions were accepted from companies including Duke Energy and Bank of America to bankroll the convention, though, Wasserman-Schultz dodged and did not address the party broke its promise to deny funds from corporations and billionaire donors.
Instead she stuck with campaign messages that have become familiar talking points along the campaign trail.
"We began our grassroots outreach efforts way back in the beginning of the 2008 campaign, and we never left North Carolina," said Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a U.S. Representative from South Florida, who also serves as the Chair of the Democratic National Committee. "From here on out, every day is Election Day in North Carolina."
A vinyl-wrapped bus – paid for by the DNC, bearing President Barack Obama's "Forward" slogan, that will roll through towns across North Carolina as part of the "Gotta Vote" initiative – was the backdrop while Wasserman-Schultz and an array of othres talked up the ticket.
Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, the party's gubernatorial candidate, told a crowd that was about equal parts journalists and students that he was proud of the state's university system.
"This system is not open to 47 percent, it's not open 53 percent of the people," said Dalton, as a swipe at now-infamous comments by Mitt Romney during a closed-door fundraiser. "It's open to 100 percent of the people who have that desire to have higher education."
Dalton said in an interview that he's pleased with the direction of his own campaign and has enough cash on hand to keep TV ads airing in the coming weeks, and that he is convinced the state overall will stay blue.
Rep. David Price assured supporters of the same, but only if they get everyone who has registered out to the polls: "This is within our reach. We know it's tight, we know it's tough, and we know we've got to reach out. ... So we're going to be pulling out the stops."
Republican National Committe Chairman Reince Priebus, Rep. Renee Ellmers and U.S. House candidate George Holding will all be on hand at the Brickyard when Republicans hold rallying efforts of their own at 2:45 p.m. this afternoon.
A line of students had already formed on the fourth floor of the Talley Student Center when early voting opened at 11 a.m. Thursday, and after an hour students were moving through at a rate of a vote every minute with the line yet to subside.
The voting location is one of the busiest in Wake County, with 34 precinct workers compared to the 18 at most other locations.