Writing about Trump is not fun. Writing semi-frivolous horse race posts is fun. When the post proclaims bad news for the GOP, the fun rises to another level. And so we turn to 2020.
Speculation about the next governor’s race began soon after McCrory had conceded. So far, the news has been unusually eventful. No fewer than three Republican candidates–Dan Forest, Phil Berger, McCrory himself–are making moves, with a fourth, Thom Tillis, possible. This alone is troubling for the GOP.
Having so many candidates would make their job considerably more complicated. Republicans could be looking at a rerun of Moore versus Perdue, in which several major candidates tear the establishment apart. Yet unlike 2008, this would happen at a time when Republicans need unity to take back the governor’s mansion. Instead they’d face a brawling primary that had a good chance of lasting till summer.
Worse will be the dynamics of that race. In ordinary circumstances, Dan Forest could take his social-conservative base for granted and hone his skills as an aisle-crosser. But Pat McCrory is a folk hero to the Religious Right, so Forest and Berger will have to fight to pry Holy Rollers away from the former governor. This race to the cultural right will keep sexual issues front and center, which killed the GOP last time.
Which brings us to something that the Republican Establishment would like to deny. Pat McCrory is their front runner. Beltline types have had enough of this retread egoist, but The Base remains as enamored as ever. As evidence, PPP found that 70% of Republican voters want him to run again. It will take a lot of money and a heavy dose of ruthlessness to tear him down.
All the while, Roy Cooper is in a strong position. His approval ratings are stellar, and unless he embraces unpopular policies he will probably keep them. Democrats have a natural advantage in governor’s races. And the Republican primary will be a demolition derby that leaves more than its share of wreckage.