The NC GOP took a poop on Attorney General and potential gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper by debuting this parody website on today, April Fool’s Day. Surprisingly, a lot of people fell for it and actually thought the Attorney General was announcing his run for governor. First of all, no one’s going to announce for anything on April Fool’s Day, and second … it’s April Fool’s Day. Come on.

The website looks quite nice for what is essentially an elaborate joke. It’s depicted as a campaign website: www.roycooperforgovernor.com, with the caption “Faithfully Serving the Democrat [sic] Party Since 1986.” A number of unpopular NC figures are mentioned as co-chairing his campaign: former governors Bev Perdue and Mike Easley, and also Moral Monday ringleader Rev. William Barber. The biography of Mr. Cooper is unflattering, obviously, and the “issues” page only draws attention to Gov. McCrory’s accomplishments. A “Donate” button redirects to the NC GOP website.

In addition, there are shots at folks who are pretty much anonymous to everyone but NC political junkies, so in some ways the site functions as an in-joke for insiders. Gene Nichol, who is apparently a conservative boogeyman now, is also mentioned several times. Bizarrely, the site also brings up Cooper’s role in clearing the Duke lacrosse players of rape charges, as if that’s a bad thing.

The parody site is apparently the brainchild of GOP consultants Ricky Diaz and Chris LaCivita. LaCivita is probably best known for almost electing conservative darling Ken Cuccinelli as governor of Virginia. Now, he’s an adviser to Rand Paul’s nascent presidential campaign.

While the website is a clever parody and domain snag, the shots at Cooper are a preview of what is going to come in next year’s gubernatorial contest. The NC GOP clearly plans to paint Cooper as an overambitious politician who is the oldest rat in the tired, corrupt Democratic barn; someone beholden to the far-left, who hides from the media and campaigns while on the taxpayer’s dime.

In addition, I think there’s another card McCrory has up his sleeve: his relationship with the General Assembly. He can go before voters and say: “Look, whether you like it or not, Republicans are almost certainly going to be in charge of the legislature for the next four years. I can work with them; my opponent can’t. He doesn’t have the experience in reaching across the aisle, like I did when I was Mayor. In fact, he’s called them ‘extremists’. You can’t work with someone by calling them names.” He needs to depict himself as a reform conservative in the mold of Jeb Bush, a consensus-builder, and yes, someone who steps on the toes of those in both parties.

But none of that will matter if McCrory can’t demonstrate that things have turned around in NC under his tenure. At the very least, he has to convince voters that electing Cooper would indeed mean a return to how things used to be … and that’s not a good thing. To do that, North Carolinians have to feel their state is moving in the right direction under McCrory’s leadership.

If the governor can land an auto manufacturer, that would certainly help him to do that. It would be a huge coup. And if he could somehow lure an automaker, like Volvo, to the hometown of his prospective Democratic opponent … even better.

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