• Mon. Apr 12th, 2021


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This isn’t the convention, or the election, North Carolina Republicans had hoped for.

For most of the past decade, North Carolina was a showcase for the Republican Party’s growth — its strength in the suburbs, in rural areas and in races up and down the ballot proving that it could dominate in parts of the country where demographics favored the Democrats. Now it could be a victim of its own excess.

After victories in 2010, when Republicans took control of the state legislature for the first time in more than 100 years, and in 2012, when a Republican won the governor’s race, they used their power in the State Capitol to carry out a sweeping conservative agenda that included tax cuts, caps on medical malpractice damages and ending tenure for teachers.

But some of their most contentious moves — creating highly gerrymandered congressional districts, restrictions on gay and transgender rights that prompted national boycotts, and curbs on the power of the Democratic governor — backfired with voters and the courts, which struck down many of them.

Now, embattled Republican lawmakers find their fates intertwined with those of President Trump, a deeply polarizing figure who won here in 2016 by three percentage points but has pushed many voters to their limits with his hectoring style and mismanagement of a coronavirus outbreak that is still spreading throughout the state.

North Carolina was supposed to be a more promising opportunity for Republicans, which is why they selected Charlotte, its largest city, as the site of the Republican National Convention this year. But when the pandemic made that kind of mass gathering unsafe, Mr. Trump got into a spat with state and local officials and moved the festivities to Jacksonville, Fla., only to cancel once that plan proved unfeasible.

A much more scaled-down gathering is taking place in Charlotte this week as several hundred Republican officials from across the country meet to vote on relatively mundane party matters — their movements tracked by Bluetooth sensors and their faces shielded by masks.

Polls show former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. tied with Mr. Trump in the state. And the president’s standing is dragging down the incumbent Republican senator, Thom Tillis, who is trailing his Democratic opponent, Cal Cunningham, in most polls.