CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — By Sunday morning, less than two days after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the signs were already stapled to telephone poles in this liberal college town. “VOTE!” they read, above an Uncle Sam-style image of the iconic feminist jurist.
Not that voters here needed a reminder of the stakes in this election.
North Carolina, where the changing demography reflects America as much as the urban-rural divisions mirror its polarization, was already a crucial bellwether. The state is critical to President Trump’s re-election, particularly as he has slipped in the industrial Midwest and come under more pressure to retain the rest of his 2016 map.
With competitive races for president, Senate and governor and control of the State Legislature up for grabs, voters are being deluged by advertisements: More money has been spent on television commercials here than in any other state.
And now, Justice Ginsburg’s death has made North Carolina even more important this year. If Mr. Trump and Senate Republicans try to hastily push through a new justice before or immediately after the election, it could doom three senators in states where they were already trailing, and where Joseph R. Biden Jr. appears well-positioned: Maine, Colorado and Arizona.
That makes North Carolina not just a bellwether but a linchpin, with Senator Thom Tillis holding perhaps the deciding seat in who controls the Senate. The White House, the Senate and the Supreme Court, then, could hang in the balance here.
“We have more of an ability to shape the future of the state, nation and world than anybody else,” said Josh Stein, the state’s Democratic attorney general who is also on the ballot and has used that line to rally supporters at drive-in church services and other Covid-era gatherings.
It is not just Democrats who see the looming Supreme Court battle as an opportunity to rouse their supporters.
“No one believes we can keep a Senate majority unless we win North Carolina,” Mr. Tillis said on Saturday at a rally with Mr. Trump in Fayetteville, N.C., shortly before the president took the podium and announced his plans to pick a female justice as early as this week.
After nearly facing a primary from the right over his seemingly less-than-total support for Mr. Trump — he initially opposed using Pentagon funds for the border wall, and sponsored a bill protecting Robert S. Mueller III, the former special counsel — Mr. Tillis is seizing on the Supreme Court opening to reach for the president’s coattails. At the event Saturday, he said that he would support whomever the president selects to replace Justice Ginsburg.
“The president has the responsibility and the authority to nominate a justice,” said Mr. Tillis, before citing the list of potential Supreme Court justices Mr. Trump released earlier in the month. “He’s going to nominate one of those justices, and I’m going to vote for their confirmation.”
Mr. Tillis is calculating that the president will win North Carolina again, and that the court