INDIAN TRAIL, N.C.—The other day, under a bright blue sky, a woman in a red shirt and a red hat stood outside the Hemby Bridge Volunteer Fire Department and distributed pamphlets touting Republican candidates to arriving early voters. “May I share some information with you?” retired teacher Ginny Shaffer asked again and again. She was having no trouble finding takers. One woman just gave her a smile and a thumbs-up.
A national narrative has jelled in the months hurtling toward these critical midterms that educated, middle- to upper-middle-class, suburban white women unsettled by President Donald Trump could be the most important factor if Democrats win back control of the House of Representative come November 6. But that, Shaffer told me, isn’t what she’s seeing here at all.
“They come to the red,” she said.
I came here to North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District and in particular to its suburban areas of southeastern Charlotte—where Mecklenburg County bleeds into Union County—not just to talk to as many women as possible but to try to talk to a specific sort of woman. I was looking for a woman who voted for Trump in 2016 but now is angered or offended or disgruntled or just plain dispirited enough to flip. I wanted to talk to a Trump defector. Based on what I had read I figured it wouldn’t be too hard.
This district, which stretches east some 120 miles along the South Carolina border all the way to Fayetteville, has voted Republican for the U.S. House since 1962. Trump won the 9th by 12 points. So did Mitt Romney four years earlier. But growth in these parts has helped create a microcosm of purple North Carolina and of the nation as a whole. “It is,” said Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College in nearby Salisbury, “turning into the classic 2018 suburban battleground.”