RALEIGH, North Carolina (CNN) – Hillary Clinton is taking her campaign to Tobacco Road for the first time Thursday, scheduling three campaign events in a state her staff sees as “uphill battle.”
Clinton is scheduled to make stops in Raleigh, Fayetteville and Winston-Salem, a campaign swing billed as the kick-off to a six-day “Solutions for the American Economy” tour across several states.
In Raleigh, Clinton will give an economic speech tailored to the issue of job training. She will propose a five-year, $12.5 billion program to make job re-training universally available to displaced workers, provide new Pell grants and support on-the-job training programs.
North Carolina has yet to vote –- 115 delegates are at stake on May 6 -– but it’s a state that’s already become familiar with the presidential race. Barack Obama has campaigned there several times already, as has Bill Clinton, appearing on behalf of his wife.
But North Carolina has been getting a first-hand glimpse of the race throughout this election cycle. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards made his home in Raleigh his campaign headquarters during his presidential campaign. The state is also sandwiched between two states that have already voted, Virginia and South Carolina, exposing parts of North Carolina to TV advertising and news coverage form those two contests.
Virginia and South Carolina were also two states that Obama won handily, largely with support from African-American voters and educated, wealthier whites. In North Carolina, there are similar demographics that do not bode well for Clinton: 45 percent of registered Democrats are black, and the Research Triangle in and around the Raleigh-Durham metro area is stocked with college-educated, affluent voters.
Independent voters can participate in the Democratic primary, but Republicans cannot.
“If you look at the polls, Sen. Obama has the upper hand,” said Clinton spokesman Doug Hattaway. “It’s an uphill battle, but that said, we are fighting on every hill, so to speak.”
Regardless of her chances, Hattaway said Clinton will continue to press her economic message throughout the state, and also utilize North Carolina native Gen. Hugh Shelton, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a Clinton endorser, to appeal to the state’s sizeable military community. Hattaway also said the campaign will open their first state office in Raleigh next week, and will open several more offices soon after. Ace Smith, who engineered Clinton’s wins in California and Texas, is the campaign’s North Carolina state director.
– CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby