The GOP is anticipating considerable gains in November’s midterms, but there are plenty of cracks in their façade. Poor candidates, sub-par messaging, and the Donald Trump effect are just some of the political baggage handicapping Republicans across the country. While North Carolina Republicans are far from immune from these problems, there are several signals they will outperform the GOP nationally.
One current indicator is polling. North Carolina Republicans perform better on the generic ballot than their own party in the national polls. Furthermore, fewer North Carolinians (26%) believe the country is on the “right track” than many national opinion polls. On top of that, Biden’s low popularity is even lower in North Carolina than nationally.
Another positive for Republicans in the state is no obvious embarrassing candidate has emerged for the left or the media to magnify. After Madison Cawthorn lost, the left hoped congressional candidate Bo Hines would be the next obvious foil. Hines is in a tough race and district, but despite a few hiccups, he’s not a distraction in the mold of Cawthorn.
The Senate race offers similar positives for Republicans in the state. Unlike Herschel Walker in Georgia or Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, who are experiencing troubles in what should be a favorable political climate, Ted Budd is running a much more disciplined campaign for U.S. Senate here. Many political prognosticators now give Democrats a better than even chance to keep the U.S. Senate because of several poor candidates for Republicans. Yet, it’s unlikely North Carolina is the reason why Republicans may not control the U.S. Senate in 2023.
The continued rise of blatant judicial activism in North Carolina may also benefit Republicans at the ballot box. Canceling the votes of millions of North Carolinians for two constitutional amendments by the Democrat-controlled North Carolina Supreme Court is likely to be remembered in November.
Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper’s popularity has also likely peaked. His approval rating is consistently below 50% now, and Cooper’s ability to mobilize or impact the electorate in the midterms is not much of a factor, if at all. Cooper has bound himself tightly to an unpopular president and never criticizes or diverges from his own party on issues — no matter how poorly voters view them.
North Carolina is now more of a swing state than Florida or Ohio, which increasingly are becoming more dominated by the GOP. North Carolina is a much closer mirror to national opinion than perhaps any other state. Yet, if the Republican Party secures super majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly and retakes the state Supreme Court, substantial policy shifts are guaranteed. Cooper will no longer be able to use the courts as his de-facto legislature to block conservative policies.
Republicans in North Carolina outperformed their party across the country in 2020. The trend is likely to continue in 2022. Much of that reason is related to today’s political climate and the state’s demographics. Democrats, who have had plenty of success in North Carolina themselves, would be wise to reassess their agenda if they find themselves wiped out in a state that reflects the nation so well.
Ray Nothstine is Carolina Journal opinion editor and Second Amendment research fellow at the John Locke Foundation.