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Joe Biden has 7-point North Carolina lead before Trump visits

Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump in a new poll of North Carolina voters, keeping a lead in the key 2020 swing state that the president is visiting on Monday.

Biden tops Trump by 7 points, 51 per cent to 44 per cent among registered voters, in a new NBC News/Marist poll that also shows Democrats in state races leading their Republican competition.

In March, Biden had a 4-point advantage against Trump in the state, 49 per cent to 45 per cent. The former vice president will be in Washington D.C. on Monday to pay his respects to the late Congressman John Lewis, who is lying in state at the U.S. Capitol building.

North Carolina will be a key state in the November presidential election and this will be Trump’s 10th visit there since he entered the White House.  The president won the state by almost 4 points in the 2016 election.

Meanwhile, in a sign Republicans are in trouble in the state, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who clashed with Trump over the Republicans’ efforts to hold an in-person convention in Charlotte in August, is leading his GOP rival Lt. Gov. Dan Forest by 20 points, 58 per cent to 38 per cent, in the NBC News/Marist poll.

And Republican Senator Thom Tillis, a close Trump ally on Capitol Hill, is trailing his Democratic opponent by 9 points.

During his North Carolina visit, President Trump will receive a briefing on the search for a cure for the coronavirus during his afternoon stop in Raleigh.

He’ll also tour the FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies’ Innovation Center, which is working on the vaccine from the drug maker Novavax. Novavax received $1.6 billion under Operation Warp Speed – the Trump administration’s plan to mass-produce a vaccine. 

The president’s visit comes on the same day the biggest COVID-19 vaccine study began as the first of 30,000 volunteers started to receive their shots. The administration has committed to purchasing 100 million doses of a not-yet-finished vaccine. There are several contenders in various stages of being tested. 

North Carolina has more than 113,000 cases of coronavirus and 1,807 deaths. The United States has topped more than 4,31 million cases and more than 149,000 deaths.

The factory President Trump will visit requires visitors to wear a mask but it’s unclear if he will have one on.

The president had originally balked at wearing a face mask, saying it was a personal choice and arguing he wasn’t a high risk for spreading the virus since he is tested for it regularly. He skipped wearing a mask at stops in Maine and Arizona. He was photographed back stage wearing one at a Ford factory visit in Michigan but had removed it when he went before the cameras.

Trump finally wore one openly in public when he visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center on July 11 and, last week, he urged people to wear one. 

‘I have reminded people of the importance of masks when you can’t socially distance, in particular,’ he said during a press briefing at the White House.

‘Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact,’ he noted.

He also pulled a face mask out of his pocket to show he has one on him.

‘I bring one. I have one. I’ve worn it. And I think when I’m in certain settings, like hospitals and various – or when I’m close – when, you know, when you can’t socially distance, I believe in it,’ he said.

The president’s approval rating is under water in North Carolina, with only 41 per cent of North Carolina voters approving of the job he is doing, the NBC News/Marist poll found. 

And 60 per cent of voters said Governor Cooper was right to balk at the administration’s demand for a full, in-person political convention, which he told the president he could not guarantee because of concerns about the coronavirus.

Trump retaliated by announcing he was moving the bulk of the GOP convention, including his speech accepting the party’s nomination for a second term, to Jacksonville, Florida.

But last week the president announced that event would be canceled due to rising cases of the coronavirus in Florida, which is becoming a new epicenter for infection. Total cases in Florida rose by 9,300 to 423,855 on Sunday, putting the state just one place behind California, which now leads the country with 448,497 cases. New York is in third place with 415,827 cases.

‘I told told my team it’s time to cancel the Jacksonville, Florida component of the GOP convention,’ Trump said last Thursday at a press briefing. 

The Republican National convention will start on August 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina – which had always been the plan. On that day will be the official roll call of delegates, which is the formal process that makes Trump the Republican nominee for president.

President Trump didn’t commit to holding a full convention back in Charlotte, saying he would hold ‘tele-rallies’ through the week. 

‘And I’ll still do a convention speech in a different form, but we won’t do a big, crowded convention per say. It’s just not the right time for that,’ the president said. 

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