HIGH POINT — Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole acknowledged he was playing to a friendly crowd Monday as he helped open the Triad’s “Victory Office,” a joint headquarters for the state Republican party and John McCain’s presidential campaign.
“It’s like speaking to the choir,” Dole said. “It’s not a bad idea from time to time. Sometimes you forget to speak to the choir and they don’t work as hard as they did.”
Republicans opened three such offices in the state Monday, including Winston-Salem and Raleigh. They’re part of a network of nine offices the party is opening in the state. Sen. Barack Obama, McCain’s Democratic rival, will open his 16th office in the state today in Cary.
The offices serve as a place to organize volunteers and coordinate door-knocking and other grass-roots efforts.
Dole, a former Kansas senator and Republican presidential candidate, is married to N.C. Sen. Elizabeth Dole. He said his wife gives him regular updates on doings in Washington, “whether I want them or not.”
In addition to Dole, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, state GOP Chairman Linda Daves and county Chairman Bill Wright spoke to the crowd of about 80 people at the new Guilford County office. Other candidates and elected Republicans, including state Rep. Laura Wiley, were present.
And each preached a message of victory to this particular choir.
“America’s now paying attention,” Burr said, giving an upbeat assessment of McCain’s chances. “This looks like a great year for Republicans in North Carolina.”
Although Republican presidential candidates have carried the state since 1980, that has not translated into a great deal of success for candidates for governor or other statewide offices.
Democrats, for example, have occupied the governor’s mansion for the past 16 years.
After the ribbon was cut on the headquarters, Burr said that trend could change this year.
“This is the first time that North Carolina Republicans have had as strong a ticket at the top as they do at the bottom, and I mean that from the Council of State seats all the way up to the presidency,” Burr said.
For his part, Dole argued that John McCain’s international experience will win over North Carolina voters. The security situation in Iraq will continue to improve and show McCain was right to support the troop surge, he said.
And new international problems, such as the conflict between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia, will make North Carolinians look to McCain instead of Obama.
“This again emphasizes which one of these candidates has the experience,” Dole said. “What would Obama do ... and what would McCain do? People will make a judgment.”
Coble, too, sounded an upbeat note for the crowd despite having expressed reservations about Republican chances earlier this year.
When asked if he saw improvement in the political landscape for his party, Coble said, “No, I’m still pessimistic.
“I hope McCain can pull it off, but I fear if the election were tomorrow that we would lose.
“Now, conversely, I feel better about McCrory,” Coble said, referring to the Charlotte mayor running for governor. “With the passage of each recent day, I feel better about McCain; things may break for us yet. But as I go around my district ... I feel more and more McCrory could be elected governor.”
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