A group of Republican governors and party donors is currently meeting privately in Charlotte.
They are holding a policy summit on the same turf Democrats will use to nominate President Barack Obama for a second term.
The Republican governors did not allow any media access to their meetings Thursday. When Democratic governors met in Charlotte recently, they locked out the media, too.
But the Republican presence in Charlotte is a clear signal that the city will be ground zero in a tooth-and-nail battle for voters in North Carolina.
The governors were hidden away inside the luxury resort at Ballantyne, but rising star Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia and a potential vice-presidential choice, surfaced Thursday afternoon.
When he toured a Coca-Cola plant, it was with Pat McCrory, who was campaigning for governor.
“I’m here today to strongly endorse Pat McCrory for governor because I believe he’ll be a marvelous partner over these next couple of years,” McDonnell said.
Political experts said the endorsement for McCrory is part of a much larger strategy by Republicans to stamp their presence in Charlotte ahead of the Democratic National Convention.
Analyst Michael Bitzer said after losing the presidential race in North Carolina in 2008, it’s “game on” for Republicans.
“They read the tea leaves and they saw what happened when Obama came in with his grassroots and they’re making the claim early on, ‘This is going to be a competitive fight. Get ready for it,’” he said.
McCrory, who even lost his home town during the 2008 swell of support behind Obama, made it clear Thursday that he will not be caught off guard again.
“The fact of the matter is, the Obama machine is going to be very, very powerful in North Carolina and I’m not going to underestimate them,” he said.
Bitzer said voters should get used to the attention from both parties.
“It’s going to be money; it’s going to be resources; it’s going to be appearances. Everything’s going to be coming into this state,” Bitzer said.
Virginia’s governor, who heads the Republican Governor’s Association, promised the party will raise and spend what it takes to help McCrory in a battleground state that will continue to have a high profile through November.