As we enter into the final stretch of the campaign, North Carolina seems to be holding steady. Polls show Joe Biden leading Donald Trump and Cal Cunningham is, so far, surviving his sex scandal. Roy Cooper is poised to handily win re-election and voters are voting in massive numbers.
A CBS poll released yesterday shows Biden leading Trump in North Carolina by four points, 51-47, among likely voters. In the Senate race, Cunningham leads Thom Tillis by six, 49-43, numbers that look like his margins before the sex scandal broke. Neither candidate is well-liked by the voters but Cunningham has better consolidated base behind him. He has 93-4 lead among Democrats while Tillis leads Republicans 88-7. Women are sticking with Cunningham despite the scandal and he leads with them by 19 points. Older voters who tend to lean Republican are breaking even, probably because of the GOP’s failed response to COVID.
The CBS poll reflects an East Carolina University poll that came out last week. In that survey, Biden leads by three, 50-47, but Cunningham’s lead is only one. ECU has always had the Senate contest tighter than many other polls. In September, they had the race tied. Still, neither survey indicates that the sex scandal has scuttled Cunningham’s campaign.
The ECU poll found Cooper leading Dan Forest by nine, 53-44. The lead is in line with the Real Clear Politics average of 9.4. Cooper has led consistently by close to double digits throughout the race. Forest is a candidate whose ideology is far to the right of most North Carolinians, while Cooper’s handling of the coronavirus is in line with most people’s expectations.
Voting in the state, as well as the nation, is through the roof. More people have voted early this year than voted early in 2016 and there are still six days, including today, of early voting left. Historically, high voter turnout has been good for Democrats. However, Trump voters are clearly motivated to go the polls this year, too. Turnout will be at a record high and could surpass 75%. The high turnout could turn the likely voter models in polling on their heads.
Nationally, COVID may dominate the conversation down the stretch. White House Chief of Staff and former North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows went on Sunday morning television to tell the nation that the administration has no intention of trying to contain the coronavirus. At the same time, we heard news of another White House outbreak, this time in the Vice-president’s office. It’s not lost on voters that the outbreaks among the political class are all among Republicans, the party that has been in denial about the threat of the virus.
As we head into the final week of the election, the races in North Carolina are mostly stable. Both Biden and Cunningham have held narrow, but not insurmountable, leads in the polls. Roy Cooper appears to be cruising to an easy victory. Turnout is huge and throws a bit of uncertainty into the prediction game. While large numbers of younger voters feels good to Democrats, an increasing GOP early vote should give them pause. If Republicans show up in droves on election day, they could erase any advantage Democrats might have in banked votes.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >