Pat McCrory has run for statewide office three times in the last 13 years and lost two of those races. He has been the national face of transphobia, a pariah in his hometown, and a dismissed, disrespected figure within his own state party despite having been at the time the first sitting Republican governor since the early 1990s. He has failed to find any job other than regional talk radio host and barely ventured back to Raleigh since losing an election over which he still seems extraordinarily bitter.
He’s come a long way since striding into the governorship with broad-ranging goodwill and the mandate of a double-digit winner. And for all that, he is running for U.S. Senate. Democrats in the state find this development distinctly unwelcome, as does the MAGA Right who always saw him as an ersatz conservative. Whether his campaign will propel him into electoral vindication remains to be seen.
On the face of it, McCrory has something to work with. To begin, he has name recognition. Compared to all the announced or prospective candidates but Lara Trump. the one-term governor is widely known. In a primary, especially, name identification provides a significant advantage over rivals who may be little more than a name on the ballot. The question is whether alternative Republicans like Mark Walker and Tedd Budd will be able to leverage their Senate campaigns into name I.D. at least comparable to McCrory.
Beyond his relative profile–one could even call it notoriety–McCrory’s strengths drop significantly. At the outset of the campaign, roughly half of the state holds him in bitter contempt. He used to consider himself a uniter; as evidenced by his Trump-heavy announcement video, he is now an angry, embittered warrior against the “liberals” he blames for ending his gubernatorial career. A polarizing figure he certainly will be.
And his campaign chops leave much to be desired. In two of his three previous outings, McCrory ran four points behind the national ticket. He is undisciplined and thin-skinned, and his fundraising abilities have consistently fallen short of the sums raised by his Democratic opponents. Admirers often credit the late Jack Hawke for his success in 2012–but they forget that Hawke also managed the 2008 McCrory campaign, which failed. The fact is that McCrory simply doesn’t run good campaigns.
Nor does he stand for anything in particular. The pro-business, moderate persona he honed over 14 years as Charlotte’s mayor is completely gone. In its place is an ardent MAGA-ized culture warrior bearing the scars of political battles in Raleigh and with corporate America. Voters in both the primary and the general election do not respect politicians who are simply on the make, with few convictions undergirding their ambitions. McCrory is like Thom Tillis without the brains, and quite possibly without the luck.
Thus, no opponent should be intimidated by McCrory. A long campaign will allow good candidates to raise their name recognition and neutralize his one major advantage in this race. He’s considered a failed politician for a reason. It’ll take the blessings of fortune to return him to the promised land of high political office.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.