This is part two of my little duopoly on the Republican gubernatorial race. Last week I evaluated Mark Robinson, still the prohibitive frontrunner even if the last few weeks’ developments have bruised his image a bit. But the fact is that several candidates have joined Robinson in the primary contest, and although each of them faces forbidding probabilities in their quest to languish the large fellow from Greensboro, their candidacies still merit attention.
The two meant with the chutzpah or delusions to challenge Robinson are Dale Folwell and Mark Walker. Interestingly, both of these men share Robinson’s geographical base in the Triad, with Walker hailing from the rural periphery of Guilford County and Folwell living in Winston-Salem. This is not fortuitous for Robinson’s rivals. With all thee men carving up a finite cache of votes in the Greensboro area, Robinson will have an easier task in sweeping the less-trod expanse of easter and far-west North Carolina. Simply due to political geography, Folwell and Walker should face difficulty in establishing traction in this race.
Folwell jumped first. I have harshly criticized the state treasurer, but his willingness to run against Mark Robinson does seem somewhat civic-minded. For his bull-headed ideological crusades, Folwell has built a reputation as a relatively serious public servant. Commentator Tom Campbell speculated that Folwell’s running to prevent Mark Robinson from dragging the GOP to defeat. I believe this to some degree, with the caveat that Folwell is an aggressive politician who clearly would love to be governor. Still, his standing in the polls registers at only 4-5%.
Compared to Folwell, Mark Robinson’s polling appears formidable. He doublers the Treasurer’s support. All, this spectacular ability to soar in to the double digits still leaves him at10% in the polls. I jest. In fact, Mark Walker has long demonstrated a measure of political flair and a knack for defying expert predictions on his fate–for better and for worse. Walker comes across as a reasonable man in a party filled with extremist, and his social conservatism does not vitiate this affable image. The former congressman would be an intriguing nominee if he managed to upset Mark Robinson.
It’s worth pondering how a Walker or Folwell governorship would really play out. As optimistic people, North Carolinians many observers would like to believe these challengers would advance more reasonable policies than Mark Robinson. But what is far more likely is that Phil Berger would drive the state’s agenda no matter who occupied Blount Street. If a Republican is governor, Berger runs the show. So, say, a Walker governorship would entail deeply regressive public policies.
If Robinson did not loom like a colossus over the NCGOP, Republicans would have a field of candidates that had the potential to be formidable. Both Walker and Folwell are savvy and substantive politicians and decent men. Are Republicans so high on the intoxicating vapors of rage and hate that they’ll nominate Mark Robinson instead? Yes, I’m afraid they are.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.