I got a glimpse of a poll in a GOP legislative primary and it should give Republican incumbents a shudder. It’s just one district, but there’s an indication that their base is not happy with their elected officials. That feeling could hurt turnout in both the primary and general election.
The poll, done by PPP, looks at Republican primary voters in Chris Malone’s district in northeast Wake County. While Malone has decent approval numbers, 33% to 19%, forty-eight percent can’t rate him. His opponent, Isaac Burke, is virtually unknown with 79% saying they can’t rate him.
Malone should be in good shape but he’s not. In the head-to-head, Malone leads Burke 25% to 21% with 54% undecided. In other words, the race is wide open. More significantly, a relatively high number of people are ready to vote for somebody they don’t know rather than the incumbent. Those numbers should keep Malone and other Republican incumbents awake at night.
Clearly, their base is unhappy with their performance. The poll doesn’t give enough information to understand what’s underlying that dissatisfaction but it’s clearly there. Those voters are cranky.
Two other question might give us insight into their mood. A full 87% of the voters say they approve of the job Donald Trump is doing. Even as president, Donald Trump is the anti-establishment candidate. These voters like the turmoil they’re seeing coming out of Washington because they perceive Trump as shaking things up. In North Carolina, the Republicans in the legislature are clearly the establishment. Maybe they think we need new legislators to mirror the changes they believe Trump is making.
The other question asks about HB2. Fifty-five percent support a full repeal of the law. Only 25% oppose it. We don’t know exactly why they want it repealed but they may see Republicans who promoted the bill as out of sync. Remember, these voters are giving Donald Trump a pass on social issues that would have killed another Republican candidate just a cycle or two ago.
If Republican primary voters feel the establishment is out of touch with them, that could be dangerous for incumbent Republicans both in the primary and general election. In primaries across the state, sitting legislators could find themselves upset by little known challengers. In the general election, incumbents might not be able to inspire the base they need to win. Any way you look at it, the poll should Republicans pause.