With the president coming down to North Carolina to put his racism and xenophobia on display, developments in the governor’s race got overshadowed. On the Republican side, state Representative Holly Grange is challenging Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest for the GOP nomination. On the fundraising side, Roy Cooper landed a record haul in the first six months of the year. 

First, let’s look at the Republican primary. Rumors have been swirling for a while about Grange’s run. She made it official on the same day Donald Trump came to town and then had her big day drowned out by all the controversy surrounding the rally. From a political strategy standpoint, it was a foolish rollout. She and her team might not have been able to predict the turmoil Trump would cause, but after two and a half years watching him dominate news cycle after news cycle, they should have known it was possible. They should have scheduled the launch the week before or week after Trump. 

While Forest has been running for Governor essentially since he became lieutenant governor, not everybody has been happy with his candidacy. Rumor has it that the Republican Governors Association has held off supporting him, probably because of his extremist views. Forest fits the profile of social conservatives who’ve historically lost to Democrats in a state that is increasingly urban and suburban. 

Grange offers a different profile. She comes from a military background and has legislative experience. She could run as the pragmatic Republican as opposed to the culture warrior. However, to get through a Republican primary, she needs show her fealty to Trump. Even though she wrapped herself around the president in her announcement video, Trump gave a shout out to Forest while she was in the audience. It must have stung even if she knew it was likely. 

Forest has put together a strong organization, at least on social media. Twitter warriors constantly tout his candidacy. He’s been traveling to the big churches and trying to lock down the evangelical wing of the party. If he’s been successful, he should be tough for Grange to beat. He also comes from Charlotte which is a much bigger base than Wilmington, Grange’s hometown. Still, Grange is an attractive candidate who could get traction.

As for Cooper, he announced a staggering haul for his midyear finance report. He announced that he raised more than $4.5 million in the first six months of this year and has $5.6 million cash on hand. Two-thirds came in low-dollar contributions and 92% from in-state donors. With almost a year and half before the election, he’s on pace to raise more $25 million and could get closer $35 million.

Cooper also has relatively high favorability ratings. A PPP poll showed a close race, but Civitas has consistently shown him besting Forest by ten points. The race will certainly tighten and the state could swing hard right, but Cooper is in position to mount strong defense of his first term, especially since the GOP nominee will be starting over after the primary in March.

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