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Pieces of Eight

Democratic vice presidential candidate and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden holds up an ECU Pirates baseball cap before a crowd of supporters Oct. 27 outside Mendenhall Student Center on ECU’s campus. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

ECU Election Excitement

By Erica Plouffe Lazure

With North Carolina playing the role of a battleground state in this presidential election, Eastern North Carolina has seen its fair share of political candidates and their supporters.

On Oct. 27, as the sun shone brightly, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) wearing an ECU baseball cap took the stage near Mendenhall Student Center to convince the several hundred people assembled why they should vote for Barack Obama and himself on or before Nov. 4. Attendees were reminded more than once that North Carolina’s early voting polls are open, including one on campus.

Biden launched into his remarks laying out the differences between Obama and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his vice-presidential running mate, Sarah Palin. “This election is about you,” Biden said. “Barack and I have visited North Carolina at least 10 times since the convention. And Lord knows, you’ve seen enough television commercials. And now it’s the time to choose.”

“The question is not if you’re better off than you were eight years ago. The real question is how can we be better off four years from now. And who will get us there? It’s that basic, folks. It seems to me the choice is very clear.”

Drawing some of his biggest cheers, Biden referred to something his friend and colleague Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) recently said about McCain, “You can’t call yourself a maverick if you’ve only been a sidekick for eight years.”

Biden also pledged to work with Obama to end “responsibly” the war in Iraq, restore the respect for America around the world, work for tax cuts for small business owners and working people, and make available affordable health care for every American.

“Ultimately it’s about jobs,” he said. Biden mentioned the loss of thousands of textile jobs in recent years and the rising number of home foreclosures throughout the United States, including 37,500 in North Carolina. “If we can help Wall Street, it sure seems to me, we should be able to help Evans Street, and all the streets here in Greenville,” he said.

As the campaign goes into its final week, Biden said that if he and Obama are elected, one of the first orders of business will be “bringing this country together” after a divisive campaign. And he said that Obama is the man to do that.

“I’ve never seen so many people in America knocked down with so little help to get them back up,” Biden said. “It’s time for America to get up together, to bring the change we need to the country we love.”

In recent weeks, polling figures suggest that North Carolina – traditionally a state that votes Republican – is suddenly a swing state that places Obama neck and neck with McCain. Biden’s visit to ECU was one of several visits by Republicans and Democrats leading up to the Nov. 4 election.

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin waves a Pirates foam finger while speaking at Minges Coliseum on campus, Oct. 7. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin visited Minges Coliseum Oct. 7, where a standing-room only crowd of more than 8,000 supporters welcomed the Republican vice presidential nominee.

“I understand your football season got off to quite a start this year,” Palin said, referring to the ECU football team’s early season victories. “It sounds like Greenville knows a little something about how to turn an underdog into a victor. John McCain and I are ready to do the same, and shake things up in Washington.”

Palin said North Carolina voters will play a key role in deciding the presidential election.

“It’s gonna come down to the wire, and here in N.C. you can help put us in D.C.,” she said. “John McCain is the only man with a plan who can help our working families, cut our taxes and get us back on the right track.”

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama visited a packed house at Minges on April 17 as part of his bid against Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Primary nomination. He spoke on the urgent issues facing the country, including the Iraqi war and economy, and made the case for why he would be the better Democratic candidate for president.

“We can’t afford to wait. We can’t afford to wait to fix our schools. We can’t wait to fix our health care system. We can’t wait to bring good jobs and good wages right here to Greenville, N.C.,” Obama told the ECU crowd.

Clinton and her husband, Bill, both came through Pitt County this spring in a bid for Clinton’s candidacy.

And, several Hollywood actors, including Kal Penn of the movie, “The Namesake,” and the television series, “House”; Jurnee Smollett of the movie, “The Great Debaters”; Ellen Pompeo of the television show, “Grey’s Anatomy”; and Danielle Panabaker of the television show, “Shark,” stopped by campus this fall to show their support for presidential candidates.

The national attention on North Carolina has put some ECU faculty in the spotlight. Political scientists at ECU have been interviewed by media organizations that range from the Charlotte Observer to the Wall Street Journal to USA Today, discussing factors they believe will determine the outcome in the 2008 presidential race.

This page originally appeared in the Nov. 3, 2008 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at