On Super Tuesday, abortion is driving Democrats to the polls in North Carolina The Biden campaign says it sees a chance to win North Carolina in November. In the primary campaign, Democratic voters say new restrictions on abortion are motivating them to get to the polls.

On Super Tuesday, abortion is driving Democrats to the polls in North Carolina

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Among the Super Tuesday states is North Carolina, where President Biden narrowly lost in 2020. His campaign is hoping this year will be different, partly because of new restrictions on abortion. NPR senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports from Charlotte.

TAMARA KEITH, HOST:

Outside the South County Regional Library, an early voting location, Democratic voters overwhelmingly had one issue at the top of their minds.

LAUREL MEINE: The biggest is women's issues, our right to our bodies.

PAUL MORITZ: Abortion is a big issue for me and the economy.

SHARON SMITH: It's crazy that we've come this far, and now we're taking millions of steps backwards.

KEITH: That was Laurel Meine, Paul Moritz and Sharon Smith. For nearly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, North Carolina was an outlier among Southern states because it allowed abortion up to 20 weeks. But then a Democrat in the state House of Representatives named Tricia Cotham switched parties. That gave Republicans a supermajority in the legislature. They quickly passed a 12-week abortion ban, with limited exceptions. Democratic Governor Roy Cooper turned his veto ceremony into a rally.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROY COOPER: It will make abortion unavailable to many women.

KEITH: It was last May, and about 2,000 people were there, knowing the veto was all but certain to be overridden. And it was.

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COOPER: Therefore, I veto this bill.

(CHEERING)

COOPER: People were angry. They wanted a way to express their feelings.

KEITH: Cooper tells me this issue helps put North Carolina in play, even though the last time a Democratic presidential candidate won here was 2008.

COOPER: When you add issues like reproductive freedom, when you add the biggest governor's race in the country, those things, I think, come together to make North Carolina ground zero in 2024.

KEITH: Cooper can't run again, and the race to replace him is shaping up to be a barn burner. The Republican supermajority in the legislature is on the line, as well. Reproductive rights are front and center. State House member Tricia Cotham is running for reelection as a Republican in a newly drawn GOP-leaning district. She declined to comment for this story. On the Democratic side, there are three candidates competing to take her on in November.

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YOLONDA HOLMES: Well, I am Dr. Yolonda Holmes. Nice to meet you. I am seeking to serve you in House District 105.

KEITH: Holmes is running to, among other things, avenge Cotham's party switch that left many Democratic voters feeling betrayed.

HOLMES: Turning that pain into passion and turning that anger into action.

KEITH: Another candidate, Nicole Sidman, spent Saturday knocking on doors in a hilly suburban neighborhood of Charlotte with large homes and long driveways.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOOR BELL RINGING)

KEITH: A chubby Chihuahua comes running when Rebekah Rubenstein opens the door.

NICOLE SIDMAN: Hi.

REBEKAH RUBENSTEIN: I know who you are.

SIDMAN: I'm Nicole Sidman (laughter).

KEITH: Rubenstein quickly tells Seidman she intends to vote for her.

RUBENSTEIN: I'm a mother of three daughters. And for my children to be able to have the right now, in the future, any time to make choices about their own bodies is essential. That is 100% on the forefront of, like, my vote.

KEITH: Sidman gives her a campaign flyer for the fridge. Abortion rights are at the top of the card. What happened in North Carolina is what motivated her to run.

SIDMAN: And there's nothing anyone can do to stop them except for getting out and voting for the right people in November.

JANICE ROBINSON: It was like you woke a sleeping giant.

KEITH: That's Janice Robinson, who heads the North Carolina chapter of Red, Wine and Blue, a group working to harness the political power of suburban women. She says the Supreme Court's abortion decision woke that giant.

ROBINSON: Women started mobilizing. We saw a groundswell.

KEITH: But Democrats shouldn't bet on abortion politics putting them over the top in this state, says Jonathan Felts, a Republican consultant.

JONATHAN FELTS: You have some voters who will be motivated by abortion. Those voters, though - they already decided who they were voting for 18 months ago, for all intents and purposes. And so persuadable voters - they are looking at a variety of issues, not just this one single issue.

KEITH: He says people are especially focused on the economy, a weak spot for Biden in polls.

Tamara Keith, NPR News.

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