I’m not big on making political predictions. The environment can change on a dime and the forces driving public opinion today may be a distant memory six months from now. That said, here are a few.
Since the U. S. Senate race is the marquee event in the state this year, let’s start there. I predict we will see unprecedented money in the GOP primary from outside groups like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce to support Thom Tillis. Greg Brannon will never really get off the ground and Mark Harris will lack the resources to keep up. Tillis will win the nomination in May.
If the primary is not settled in May, then Thom Tillis will resign from the House since serving as speaker would prevent him from focusing on the run off. Besides, legislation before the house could serve to alienate Tillis from the conservative base that would show up in a low turnout second primary. In the run off, Mark Harris would actually defeat Tillis.
Regardless of the nominee, Kay Hagan will win re-election. Obamacare will not be the driving factor in the race. Republicans will spend millions telling Obamacare horror stories but most people will see very little difference in their quality of life and the majority of those that do will see a positive change. Without Obamacare, the Republicans won’t have the issue they need to fire Hagan.
The short session of the legislature will be short, but not as short as Tillis would want. It will be over in five weeks. The will give teachers and state employees small raises and offer additional money for schools. They will shy away from controversial legislation, staying out of the national spotlight.
Moral Mondays will resume but will not get crowds as large and very little national attention. The protests will keep the progressive base fired up, though, and that will translate into campaign workers for Democrats in the fall.
In legislative races, Democrats will pick up a handful of seats but will fail to capture a majority in either house.
Phil Berger, Jr. will win his primary easily and become the GOP nominee to succeed Howard Coble. With his father’s backing he will have all the money he needs. Laura Fjeld will run a spirited campaign against him but will likely come up a little short, though missteps by Berger could change that outcome.
In the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District, Houston Barnes will become the nominee, narrowly defeating Keith Crisco in a hard-fought primary. Renee Ellmers will squeak through in her primary but will further alienate the Tea Party types that originally elected her. If Barnes can garner the resources, he could make it a real race. Ellmers lacks political savvy and her disillusioned base won’t show up in force.
Finally, George Holding may find himself in a race. I don’t know much about Brenda Cleary, but she has a great profile. She’ll have to put together a strong organization and raise enough cash to be competitive, though.
Overall, I think it’s going to be a fairly status quo election. The economy will finally begin to pick up and Obamacare won’t be the disaster Republicans are predicting. Voters won’t be looking for any major changes.