Well, reality seems to have finally set in with Pat McCrory today and he conceded the NC governorship.  I like this US News story because, instead of using a single anodyne quote– as so often seems to happen– they used some of my best lines:

“It was a self-inflicted, fatal wound to his re-election,” said Steven Greene, a political science professor at North Carolina State University. Donald Trump took the battleground state by five points and the state’s incumbent GOP senator, Richard Burr, was re-elected. “Without HB2, that [McCrory loss] doesn’t happen,” Greene says…

But McCrory, instead of working to repeal the law, “doubled down,” Greene said, perhaps thinking he would win by appeasing and igniting the Republican base. “He calculated wrong. It blew up in his face,” Greene said.

Cooper’s win represents a stunning turnaround for the LGBT movement. In 2008, Democrat John Kerry lost the presidential election in part because of public worries about same-sex marriage. This time, it was a Republican who paid the price for not being inclusive enough of LGBT people.

The race also underscores the importance of North Carolina as a battleground in years to come. While Republican nominees have won the state in the last two presidential elections, the defeat of McCrory – and over a social issue like LGBT rights – shows the state’s population is not as conservative as the legislature, and that their votes are very much up for grabs, Greene says.

Image result for pat mccrory

I really thought McCrory was on the way to a loss even before HB2.  As narrow as his loss was, though, I definitely think it is safe to say this proved instrumental to his defeat.  I’m glad as I much prefer Roy Cooper, but boy did McCrory screw this up.  Vox’s German Lopez:

More than 200 major CEOs and business leaders signed an open letter calling for the law’s repeal. PayPal, the NBA, the NCAA, and Bruce Springsteen, among others, pulled business out of the state. By Wired’s estimate, North Carolina has so far lost $395 million — “more than the GDP of Micronesia” — as a result of the law.

This was an intentional strategy from LGBTQ groups. The thinking was simple: If the governor and other Republicans don’t care about LGBTQ rights, maybe they’ll care about the law’s economic impact. At the very least, voters will care about the economic impact. It’s a way of transforming an identity politics issue into an economics one. [emphases mine]

“Whether you’re a Democratic governor or a Republican governor, virtually without exception, goal No. 1 is to keep jobs in your state and to attract new jobs that you don’t currently have. That is one thing that is shared between conservative governors, liberal governors, moderate governors,” Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin previously told me. “So the increase in business [engagement and lobbying against these laws] has been key to our success, and I think it will be key to our success as we engage in these battles in the future.”

The strategy seemed to work. Public Policy Polling’s surveys on HB2, the anti-LGBTQ law, found that only 30 percent of North Carolina voters supported the law and 42 percent opposed it. About 58 percent of voters said the law is hurting the state, compared with 22 percent who said it’s helping — with even a majority of Republican voters by a 24-point margin agreeing that it’s doing more harm than good to the state economy. And 43 percent of voters said that the way McCrory handled the law made them less likely to vote for him, compared with 31 percent who said the way he handled the law made them more likely to vote for him.

As Public Policy Polling concluded in August, “There’s a good chance that if not for HB2 McCrory would be favored for reelection at this point.”

And, speaking of PPP, Tom Jensen takes to some broader political analysis (rather than just strictly polling analysis) to highlight the importance of Moral Mondays and Democratic opposition:

McCrory spearheaded or went along with all of this [a list of unpopular Republican legislation precedes]. And he might have gotten away with it without much impact on his image. Most voters don’t pay close attention to state government.

But the Moral Monday movement pushed back hard. Its constant visibility forced all of these issues to stay in the headlines. Its efforts ensured that voters in the state were educated about what was going on in Raleigh, and as voters became aware of what was going on, they got mad. All those people who had seen McCrory as a moderate, as a different kind of Republican, had those views quickly changed. By July McCrory had a negative approval rating- 40% of voters approving of him to 49% who disapproved. By September it was all the way down to 35/53, and he never did fully recover from the damage the rest of his term.

Moral Mondays became a very rare thing- a popular protest movement. In August 2013 we found 49% of voters had a favorable opinion of the protesters to only 35% with an unfavorable opinion of them. And their message was resonating- 50% of voters in the state felt state government was causing North Carolina national embarrassment to only 34% who disagreed with that notion.

Pushing back hard on McCrory worked. The seeds of his final defeat today were very much planted in the summer of 2013. And it’s a lesson for progressives in dealing with Trump. Push back hard from day one. Be visible. Capture the public’s attention, no matter what you have to do to do it. Don’t count on the media to do it itself because the media will let you down. The protesters in North Carolina, by making news in their own right week after week after week, forced sustained coverage of what was going on in Raleigh. And even though it was certainly a long game, with plenty more frustration in between, those efforts led to change at the polls 42 months after they really started.

Yep.  Safe to say that the strong Democratic pushback– embodied in Moral Mondays– set the groundwork that enabled HB2 to seal McCrory’s fate.  Democrats should not expect great things from Roy Cooper with Republican super-majorities, but, nonetheless, good riddance to Pat McCrory.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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