CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA —
The crowd huddled inside the dimly lit music venue, waiting for a glimpse of the rock icon.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the announcer began, “please welcome the next secretary of entertainment — Jon Bon Jovi!” The crowd burst into applause, iPhones bobbing in the air. The legendary musician strut onstage in a black v-neck shirt. He played a song. He told the crowd it was very nice to be in North Carolina.
Then he got to work.
“The polls suggest that North Carolina is a toss-up state,” he said at Sunday’s concert, a show in support of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. “Make sure you each and every one of your votes really matter on Tuesday.”
Then, he launched into one of the crowd’s favorite lines: “The road to the White House leads right through North Carolina!”
The performance came at a critical juncture in the key battleground state. North Carolina has emerged as arguably the most important player in the race — a state that could determine not only the presidency but control of the Senate, as well. Polling shows the two candidates essentially deadlocked: 44 percent to 44 percent, according to a New York Times Upshot/Siena College survey released Monday morning. GOP senator Richard Burr has a narrow lead over Deborah Ross, his Democratic challenger, at 46 percent to 45 percent.
The state is also contending with cuts to early voting sites in 17 counties, compromising early access to the polls and likely making the wait to cast a ballot longer. As ThinkProgress’ Alice Ollstein previously reported, Charlotte’s Mecklenburg County, which was reported to have some of the longest lines when early voting initiated, offers just 10 early voting locations, down from 22 in 2012. Some voters said they waited as many as three hours to vote.
The musician’s concert on Sunday was the latest in a string of performances in support of Hillary Clinton. In late August, he performed alongside Paul McCartney at a fundraiser in the Hamptons; Monday night, he is slated to appear alongside Bruce Springsteen at Clinton’s final rally in Pennsylvania. Both musicians have voiced their support for Clinton and have sharply criticized Donald Trump. “The republic is under siege by a moron, basically,” Springsteen told Rolling Stone in September. “Without overstating it, it’s a tragedy for our democracy. When you start talking about elections being rigged, you’re pushing people beyond democratic governance. And it’s a very, very dangerous thing to do.”
At Sunday’s show, the crowd cheered on Bon Jovi’s words of support for Clinton and repeated calls to get out the vote. Attendees Jennifer Chaffman, Susan Ban, and Beth Kemp — all mothers of college freshmen and all wearing matching Hillary pins — were energized walking out of the show. All three had voted early and ran into no problems at the polls. “The early voting was a piece of cake,” Chaffman said.
However, the group did run into at least one colorful character at the concert. “We think there might have been a Trump plant in there,” Chaffman said. “He was a little inebriated, but he was harmless. He was just like ‘convince me, I haven’t decided yet. I have to weight all the facts between now and Tuesday.”
The rock icon closed with a plea for unity, cautioning against the bitter vitriol that has come to define this year’s election cycle. “On Wednesday, we’re going to have to come together again, regardless of who wins — and come together as one America.”
“That’s right!” a couple in the crowd shouted.
“Now, you have to ask yourself what kind of world do you want to live in,” he continued. “We have to remember that on Wednesday we come together as Americans… I care. And you obviously care enough to be here. Keep the caring alive. Let’s start everything anew.‘”
The next song, it seemed, was only fitting.
“Here comes the sun…”