North Carolina is in play, and that’s all Donald Trump’s fault.
POLITICO is reporting today on Trump’s failure to connect with Tarheel voters with only several months left until the general election.
On the floor of the Republican National Convention last month, an anguished attendee cornered Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions with an urgent message.
“We need help in North Carolina,” the attendee told Sessions, a top Donald Trump ally. “We can get no information about anything. We don’t know who to go to. … We’ve got to get some boots on the ground, we really do. We have nothing.”
Now, 80 days before the election, Trump’s team is trying to regain a foothold in this must-win state, but the Republican nominee’s challenge here is only growing.
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.
While Hillary Clinton is working a professional ground game in the state, flooding the airwaves with ads, and playing the game to win, Trump’s mea culpa rally on Thursday may have been too little, too late.
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.”
Major game-changing event.
So what the Trump team is looking for in North Carolina is something along the lines of a new revelation in Hillary Clinton’s many scandals, Trump to suddenly become a strong candidate, in both policy and temperament, or the Sweet Meteor of Death to finally make its appearance.
Given the former options, I’d say his best hope is the meteor.
Trump hasn’t found the Tarheel state to be of any real importance to his campaign. The most action his team has seen in the state was the recent removal of Earl Phillips as state director, after a lawsuit was brought, charging Phillips with pulling a gun on another staffer. Other than that, however, nothing.
“This time last year, I was excited about North Carolina electing a Republican president, along with a Republican Senate and Congress,” said Art Pope, a major GOP donor and activist who backed Scott Walker and then Marco Rubio in the primary.
But now, said Pope, who does not currently support Trump or Clinton, he’s not at all confident the GOP will carry the state.
“If we had had a traditional Republican candidate who was strong on improving the economy, on national defense issues, they would have had a much easier chance carrying North Carolina,” he said. “In North Carolina, there’s going to be a lot of people voting for the lesser of two evils. I don’t know who loses that contest.”
Not exactly the kind of words that inspire confidence in a candidate’s chances.
The unfavorable ratings for both candidates in North Carolina remain high for both Clinton and Trump, but Trump’s are higher.
Republicans have won North Carolina in eight of the last nine elections. Trump is underwater with independents in the state, and has yet to fully engage the Republican base in areas like Mecklenburg County and the Research Triangle area.
As a lifelong resident of North Carolina, as well as a committed conservative, I have to say that there is a special horror in this election.
From the time I was of voting age, there have only been two Republican governors of the state. I remember next to nothing about Governor Jim Martin, other than he served two terms, from 1985 to 1993. From 1993 to 2013, however, North Carolina was under the thumb of Democrat governors, and everything from the local economy to our schools suffered.
Beverly Purdue, the state’s first female governor, was such an unmitigated disaster for the state, that I would be quite comfortable taking an oath to never allow another woman to sit in the Governor’s office in Raleigh, ever again. Thankfully, she only served a single term, from 2009 to 2013.
By contrast, Since Republican Governor Pat McCrory took office in 2013, he has slashed taxes, brought around 300,000 new jobs to the state, ended Common Core, signed off on ending sanctuary cities in the state, brought the state into the black, to the tune of a $425 million surplus, and a host of other positive moves guaranteed to send liberals into apoplectic fits, while simultaneously benefiting everybody else.
The pox of Trump at the top of the ticket has already shown to be a cancer that is spreading down ballot. My fear lies as much in losing the state back into the hands of destructive, liberal Democrats, as it does in losing the White House to the Clinton Crime family.
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.
And that is the problem for Trump and the state.
My best hope, at this point, is to hold the state to a bright purple. If Hillary is to win because of Trump’s non-existent to weak showing, then at least let us keep Governor McCrory.
Fighting at the state level may be the best any of us can hope for this year.