Three hours after John Davis released his optimistic column on Governor McCrory’s re-election chances, based mostly on the successful passage of the $2 billion bond issue on March 15, I wrote John to let him know that I agreed that he had made a powerful argument in McCrory’s favor. Like Thomas Mills, I often agree with Davis’ analyses of what makes North Carolina’s politics and government tick. But, I find that there is another more potent variable operating against the Governor’s re-election that may cancel out the accolades the McCrory campaign team makes on his new “education” accomplishment—the passage of the bond issue.
Parenthetically, in several published op-eds. I publicly opposed the bond issue—not because of the needed bond building projects—but because I thought that it was a clever, political strategic move by the Governor and the GOP leaders of the State Legislature to pass the buck. They got elected by claiming that they opposed more government spending and taxation. Yet, in this one gigantic bond issue they have made the state liable for an enormous amount of spending while falsely claiming we really won’t have to pay for it. So, now the Governor and the Republican Legislature, can have it both ways and will in the future argue: “Hey, we didn’t increase spending and taxes…you, the voters did!”
Looking long-term, and past the short-term gains from the bond issue, I believed that a defeat for McCrory and some GOP anti-education legislators in November, would help the University and Community College Systems more than one bond issue. Besides, what was the hurry? If we can wait a year for a new U.S. Supreme Court Justice, couldn’t we wait until a newly elected governor calls for a bond referendum in 2017?
O.K., we fell for the scam and are stuck with it. But the consequences down the road are coming in a few weeks. Note that the Republican leadership in the State Legislature recently announced that they plan to cut money to operate North Carolina’s colleges and universities THIS year. Yet, just days ago, UNC President Spelling (Bless her Republican heart), said she was going to ask the legislature for an increase in spending of about the same amount the GOP says it wants to cut! (Another story, N’est-ce pas?) Also note that there has been no commitment by the Republican Governor and Legislature to actually fund future operations (e.g., faculty, staff, maintenance and other costs) for those new buildings and projects in the $2 billion bond issue.
Back to John Davis’ thesis that McCrory should win re-election based on the progress McCrory claims he has made in education, job growth, reducing unemployment and other perceived achievements of the past three years. Maybe that makes sense to some at first glance, EXCEPT that Donald Trump (or less likely, but equally unelectable, Ted Cruz) will head the ballot as the official party leader of North Carolina Republicans. Of course, Democrats running for President, U.S. Senator, Governor, Council of State and even Congressional offices, if they are smart, will not let McCrory disassociate himself from The Donald. Don’t you even foresee Democratic candidates for State Legislature, County Commission, perhaps even School Boards, doing the same? What a gift to the Democratic party.
Running independently of Trump will be a neat trick for McCrory and many Republican candidates. You should start to catalogue the reasons given by GOP candidates for their running away from Trump—it will be a fascinating and immensely amusing exercise. Watch them squirm…political contortions not seen in this state since, oh, let’s say, George McGovern was the Democratic Presidential candidate? I know because we had to do just that in Michigan GOP Governor George Romney’s 1964 re-election campaign with Republican presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, heading the ticket. Another story, but let’s just say it was tough. Because now you will have to teach Republican voters how to split their tickets, knowing at the same time that more than 50% voted straight Republican in the last presidential election. Added to this is a new, first-time, Republican law that forces North Carolina voters into mandatory ticket-splitting for every single office on the long ballot, and that should worry McCrory’s strategists more than anything else. No one knows how that will turn out.
Can’t you see the anti-Trump tv and print ads now? Will any GOP candidates even use their partisan identification, as Republicans, in their advertising or on the ballot? Will Trump be any better perceived by the voters seven long, angst -filled months from now? Isn’t he already under water on job and approval ratings? How will McCrory get Trump to avoid campaigning in North Carolina—a battleground state (shades of Obama/Hagan in 2012)? Will Governor McCrory endorse Trump or even be seen with him? Indeed, haven’t we seen this play before in Act IV, as the villain dies?
It is enough to give an old political consultant a headache, and the election is still seven months away. So, if you thought this presidential campaign was entertaining and unique so far, stand by, for it will only get more fascinating and frustrating.
Dr. Walt de Vries is a political consultant, author, university professor, and founder of the North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership (1974) and co-founder of the American Association of Political Consultants (1969). He has co-authored two books on ticket-splitters (1972 and 2000) and another on Southern Politics (1976). Walt has done public opinion polling since 1960 and formed his own political consulting company in 1967. He has polled in all 50 states and several foreign countries. He currently resides in Wilmington, North Carolina.