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 demographics reflect 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 bid, 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. 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 the fate of Senator Thom Tillis’s re-election campaign a key factor in deciding which party will control the Senate. And Mr. Tillis’s early pronouncement that he would support whomever the president selects to replace Justice Ginsburg underscored the way the future of the White House, the Senate and the Supreme Court have all become entwined with North Carolina politics.