The race in NC (and the perils of waiting to run political interviews)

I had forgotten that the news-radio station of my childhood, Washington DC’s WTOP had interviewed me last month, but a friend in radio just sent me a link to their story looking at five battleground states.  I certainly do love any story that includes so much of my quotes, so that’s nice:

The best media bang for the campaign (or PAC) buck this year? Try the Tarheel State.

“If you are looking for your campaign to make a difference in the outcome, then North Carolina is a great place to focus resources,” said Steven Greene, professor of political science at North Carolina State University.

“In North Carolina, there’s a very clear opportunity that the resources spent here could tip the state one way or the other.”

North Carolina’s 15 Electoral College votes went to Mitt Romney in 2012 and to Barack Obama in 2008 — both very narrow victories. Greene says North Carolina remains a 50-50 state, despite solid Republican control of state politics for most of this decade.

“Republicans were very successful in (in 2010),” said Green. “They were able to take that success and gerrymander themselves into a bunch of safe districts that have allowed them to essentially take over state-level politics, despite the fact that … the voters in this state are still very much divided 50-50.”

North Carolina Democrats may not be all the energized by Hillary Clinton, but they see the 2016 race as their best chance to regain some power in the State House, thanks to the concurrent races for a Senate seat and for governor.

“Most states do not have their governors up in presidential election years. But North Carolina does. So that is going to be a very interesting, hotly contested race.”

Alas, my Senate comments are completely dated because this interview was well before Deborah’s Ross’s impressive fundraising and poll performance:

Tarheel Democrats also hope to do their part in changing the majority in the U.S. Senate. Greene says it’s a bad news/good news scenario for Democrats. The bad news is the candidate: former State Rep. Deborah Ross.

“Democrats did not get … a strong — or certainly a well-known, established candidate as they would like for that race.”

But the good news for Democrats, according to Greene, is the very top of the GOP ticket: Donald Trump.

“I think, among Republicans, there probably is a real fear that having Trump at the top of the ticket puts him in more danger than he otherwise would have been.”

Meanwhile, Politico has an article suggesting that NC is a disaster for Trump (amazing how many key Republicans in the Tarheel state– notably Art Pope– are refusing to get behind Trump).

Interviews with more than a dozen North Carolina operatives and lawmakers reveal that Trump has failed to consolidate the Republican base in North Carolina. Worse, according to these sources, he is particularly driving away female and independent voters who are crucial in Republican-leaning suburbs, such as Apex, outside of Raleigh.

Meanwhile, they say, Hillary Clinton’s extensive field organization and saturation of the airwaves make it even harder for Trump’s bare-bones, late-starting operation to catch up despite a recent reorganization of his team here.

At this point, said veteran Republican strategist Carter Wrenn, Trump’s best hope for winning North Carolina rests on the possibility of some major game-changing external event, rather than on his campaign’s ability to produce a win. That’s a risky dynamic for Trump, whose road to the White House would almost certainly have to run through North Carolina, given his underwater polling in other key battleground states.

Asked what Trump’s path to victory in North Carolina looks like, Wrenn responded, “I’m not sure I know.” …

Trump lost Wake County by big margins in the primary, though he won the state, and in one clear indication of how toxic he still is among independents and some Republicans in the region, North Carolina House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam, who represents Apex, refused repeatedly to say whether he was supporting Trump.

“I decline to answer,” he said, when asked whether he was endorsing the nominee, even as he was critical of Clinton and highlighted his support for Republican Sen. Richard Burr and Gov. Pat McCrory.

Former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, who co-chaired John Kasich’s campaign in the state during the primary and also lives in the Raleigh area, has already ruled out voting for Trump.

“I will go to my grave opposed to him,” pledged Orr, who has voted Republican in every presidential election since he could vote, casting his first ballot for Richard Nixon in 1968. This time around, he’s not ruling out supporting Clinton.



About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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