A Look at the 2020 Election: North Carolina

AP Photo/Gerry Broome

In the Tar Heel State, we have a Senate race and 13 House seats up for grabs as well as the Presidential election.  As concerns the House seats, the GOP holds a 10-3 advantage right now.  This seems a little of whack for a state considered by some to be a swing state.  Part of it is due to districting because there are some weird looking districts in North Carolina.  Three of these Republican seats are open races in 2020 with George Holding vacating the Second, Mark Walker in the Sixth, and Mark Meadows in the 11th- currently vacant after Meadows joined the Trump White House.  One cannot overlook the Third District where Greg Murphy won a special election in 2019 to replace Walter Jones who passed away.  Murphy won that race by 5 points and his opponent, Daryl Farrow, is back for a rematch.

This writer does not foresee any of these districts flipping in 2020.  If one had to wonder about any GOP-held district, it may be the Ninth where Dan Bishop won a special election in 2019 after the results of the midterm were negated due to voting irregularities.  But if he won a special election, he can win another in a year with Trump at the top of the ticket.  This is relatively safe GOP territory lying along the border with South Carolina, but with a sizable African-American population.  At best, the GOP maintains their 10-3 advantage and at worst- a low probability and in a surprise- they lose one seat.  I am calling for maintaining the status quo and a 10-3 advantage.

In the Senate race, Republican Thom Tillis faces a serious challenge from his Democrat opponent, Cal Cunningham.  He is a former state senator.  His campaign website is long on a list of Democrat priorities: tackling gun violence through the usual solutions of most lefties, taking on climate change, expanding Obamacare, and “protecting a woman’s reproductive health” (a/k/a being pro-choice).  One is not sure how expanding the failure of a healthcare program, banning certain guns, destroying an economy because of climate change, suggesting a conversion to the mythical “renewable energy sources,” or garnering the support of NARAL and Planned Parenthood will play out statewide.

Instead, the real issue is not Cunningham’s proposals, but Tillis.  The man is simply unpopular in the state.  According to the most recent Morning Consult poll available to this writer, Tillis sports a 33% approval rating.  He also trails in fundraising.  In 2014, it took $124 million in spending by both candidates for Tillis to defeat Democrat incumbent Kay Hagan in what was, at the time, the most expensive race in US Senate history.  Although no one is expecting spending to reach those heights, Tillis must improve his image in the state if he hopes to succeed.  In that 2014 race, Tillis inched over the finish line by 46,000 votes and less than 50% of the total vote as Libertarian Sean Hugh siphoned off 109,000 votes.  He may need help from a third party to take votes away from Cunningham this year.

In some ways, 2020 mirrors 2014 in polling.  In 2014, the majority of the polling data indicated a Hagan victory.  This year, most polling shows a Cunningham victory.  Tillis overcame the odds in 2014.  The multi-million dollar question is: Can he do the same in 2020?  It should be noted that voters in North Carolina are not averse to sending a Democrat to the US Senate.  

How recent revelations that Cunningham, who portrayed himself as the consummate “family man,” was involved in a “sexting” escapade and apparent on-line, possibly in-person extramarital affair will affect the voters.  This likely offsets some of the negativity expressed towards Tillis, but how much is unknown.  When these revelations came to light, some harkened back to the John Edwards incident that ended his political career.  Will Cunningham meet the same fate?

Trump won North Carolina in 2016 by a comfortable margin of slightly less than 200,000 votes of more than 4.5 million cast.  He still retains somewhat decent approval ratings in the state and is, by far, more popular than Tillis.   Trump will not win the metropolitan areas, but like in other major cities, such as Charlotte, the liberal urban core can absorb high taxes and send their kids to private schools.  Trump can recapture the suburbs with an appeal to their concerns.  Hell yes- suburbanites want school choice, reliable and cheap energy, a job, and more money in their paycheck, not to mention safe streets.

Polling out of North Carolina puts that state on the cusp of a Biden victory.  If we subtract out the effects of the coronavirus, voters have to ask themselves if things were so bad under the first four years of Trump?  More importantly, do they really believe things will be better under Biden?  Trump will have to fight to keep this state, but this writer sees a positive trend in the poll numbers.  As we get closer and closer to election day, more minds will be made up where people realize Biden has lost his mind.  

To summarize, this writer expects a 10-3 GOP advantage in the House delegation and Trump to win a close one in North Carolina.  As for Tillis, given the similarities between 2014 and 2020, I will put this in the win column for now, but will likely revisit this race later as developments occur.  However, should Tillis lose, it would not be a major surprise.  I think it comes down to whether Trump pulls Tillis up, or whether Tillis pulls Trump down in North Carolina.

Running totals  

As that great political pundit Scooby-Do would say “Ruh-roh.”  Trump now expands his lead on Biden 240-223 as #TheResistance gears up since he is now within 30 electoral votes of a second term.  Visions of Senate leadership are gone as the GOP now holds a 50-42 advantage.  Even better, the GOP now ties the Democrats in the House, 184-184. 

Next: Michigan

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