Right now, the popular thing is to scream about vote fraud. There is some interesting evidence out there to support that argument.
Current returns show about a 5000 vote statewide for Cooper.
But why didn’t these cheaters nail Burr? (Granted, he does cave and give them a lot of what they want.) You have to ask — in a Republican wave year — why did our Republican incumbent governor come up short?
Here are some thoughts:
- Tolls. Remember Them? The state spent years ramming a dubious public-private toll road deal down the throats of Northern Mecklenburg County voters. McCrory and then-speaker Thom Tillis appeared to dismiss all of those angry voices. Tillis graduated to DC, but McCrory was still in Raleigh to oversee the deal and feel the wrath of local voters. The anti-toll crowd sure did collect a number of scalps during local elections. Just scanning the November election returns, I see a margin of about 3000 votes separating Cooper and McCrory in the very-Republican North Meck precincts. That accounts for who showed up and marked a ballot for the governor’s race. But how many out there left that race blank, or sat out the election, out of anger over McCrory’s role in the toll deal?
- Shunning Trump. Anyone with half a brain is looking at the election returns and seeing them as a Trump-inspired wave. All kinds of people came out of the woodwork to back the man from NYC and his perceived allies. The GOP — destined pre-vote to lose seats in the US Senate — actually survived as a majority. The only two seats they lost were held by Republicans who made a huge deal out of shunning Trump. In North Carolina, McCrory and Richard Burr were quite lukewarm toward Trump. Burr, ironically, was likely helped by all those ads his opponent ran against him linking him to Trump. (Too bad Cooper didn’t run ads linking McCrory to Trump.) You have to wonder what might have been if our governor had gotten out there a little more enthusiastically with Trump earlier on.
- Footsie with Democrats, influence peddlers. It appears that the governor’s team let the campaign fundraising unit dictate an awful lot of policy decisions in the governor’s office. In Robeson County, the governor scooped up a lot of cash from sources that had long-been diehard Democrats. He appointed those people to state posts, and fought to get them favors from the state. Meanwhile, the long-suffering local GOP activists got left in the dirt. (He ended up in 2016 becoming the first ever Republican governor to WIN Robeson County.)
GOP activists in other counties tell me stories about the governor’s office regularly ignoring their
recommendations for appointment to community college boards and boards of election — forsaking them for newfound Democrat allies or big check-writers who had never done a thing for the local party. Look at the number of Democrat donors and activists who McCrory and Tillis got onto the UNC big boards. Forsaking an opportunity to remake and reform Raleigh for the sake of some extra cash.
- The base. Charlotte voters are quite different from the rest of the state. In Charlotte, conservatism does not play much of a role in GOP politics. (See Edwin Peacock III and Richard Vinroot as examples.) Political success can rise or fall on simply making and preserving friendships. Even with folks in the other party. As Charlotte mayor, the left doesn’t view you as much of a threat. But, as governor, you have the potential to hinder their agenda. They’re not going to be as nice as they were when you were mayor.
Surviving and thriving statewide as a Republican depends greatly on warming up to the party’s conservative base. (Much as the Democrats warm up to the run-through-the-streets-and-break-stuff crowd.) Joining with the libs to condemn the Confederate flag? I understand the Sons of Confederate Veterans is 10,000 strong in North Carolina. They’re a pretty conservative bunch. Even HALF of those folks leaving the governor’s race blank can be painful. Especially when the race ends in a 5000 vote deficit for the GOP.
The same problem arises when you get wishy-washy over stuff like HB2, cutting spending, and blocking ObamaCare. The folks who favor all of that stuff are the ones who would walk over glass and fire to support Republicans — IF they feel the GOP has their back. You need them solidly in your backfield before pulling this ‘crossing-the-aisle’ routine.
I had one longtime political pro tell me, during the campaign: “Looking at these TV ads, It’s hard to tell who the Republican is and who the Democrat is. Cooper’s people are doing a great job of blurring the lines.”
And then there was THIS election night commentary from a veteran conservative politico, amidst a celebration involving adult beverages. (It’s always fun to interview folks after they’ve had a few. People tend to be more honest and blunt and candid in that state.) : “I don’t give a $h!t about Pat McCrory, The governor has no real power. He’s expendable. A veto-proof majority in the general assembly can sit Roy in the corner for four years. We don’t need Deborah Ross making trouble with the judges. We need Burr up there to make sure the right person gets approved for the Supreme Court. That’s about the only reason.”
For THIS guy to not give a, um, “$h!t” about Pat McCrory speaks volumes about the failure of the governor’s campaign team. If you can’t impress THIS GUY, how can you fire up all the low-information types out there?
- Meddling at the state party. It’s been pretty clear that the governor’s political team has had their hand in the internal operations of the NCGOP HQ for some time. They put Brad’s brother Dallas in. They also helped orchestrate the ouster of the duly elected chairman and his replacement with Dallas’s Grandpa.
From the beginning, it was like there was nothing else going on in the state except the governor’s campaign. There was no teamwork to send the governor out to help local candidates and build goodwill locally. (In fact, one county chairman told me a story about watching the governor’s motorcade drive right past a local GOP event on the way to a cocktail party hosted by a BIG influence-peddling check-writer. I wonder how many signs Mr. Check Writer put out? I wonder how many phone calls he made for the governor, or how many hours he put in at the polls?)
Contrast that to the Democrats who had paid operatives in every county building goodwill and helping local candidates. If not for Trump, the other side would have had a lot more to cheer about in our state on Tuesday.
McCrory may survive canvassing and the recounts. (Clearly, it’s a long-shot.) If he does, I certainly hope he and his team take some of this to heart.