berger again again

-A new ad is now being broadcast throughout the state by the non-profit Renew NC. It’s an ad touting the policy successes of the McCrory administration and their plans for the future. I must admit to not being a fan of the “stepping on toes” line, which I feel is way past the expiration date. More importantly, the buy suggests that McCrory’s internal polling jibes with the public polls, and the administration feels they need to reverse the decline.

-Attorney General Roy Cooper has sent an email out to supporters and has also joined the ranks of Twitter. Observers have long expected Cooper to run for higher office. His recent moves indicate that he is seriously considering a 2016 run for governor.

-State Representative Valerie Foushee has been chosen to replace Eleanor Kinnaird in the State Senate. Foushee will represent Senate District 23, which is comprised of both Orange and Chatham counties. A replacement will have to be chosen for Foushee’s old seat in House District 50. District 50 is composed of parts of Orange and Durham counties, and Foushee’s replacement will be chosen by local Democrats. While Orange and Durham are both extremely Democratic, District 50 is comprised of more rural and less Democratic parts of both counties, therefore it is more competitive. Foushee only won her last election here by 10 points. However, this is a district that is only on the fringe of competitiveness. Republicans have a chance only in a wave election for their party, and long-term trends favor Democrats. Democrats will probably hold this seat through the end of the decade.

-Is Phil Berger running for Senate? His recent moves, including a $100,000 ad running in the Greensboro market and touting his efforts to implement voter ID, strongly point to that possibility. This weekend Berger uploaded several videos to his YouTube account, and it’s been pointed out that his State Senate campaign website can easily be adapted to a statewide race.

So is Berger running? Of all the potential candidates, Berger’s ambitions are the most elusive, perhaps by design. Maybe his intent is to keep people guessing and speculating, and also to keep Tillis on his toes. Berger says he’ll make an announcement in October, but others close to him say he’ll make an announcement in the next 10 days or so.

Is Berger genuinely undecided? Probably not. At this point, he probably knows exactly what he wants to do and is carrying out a strategic plan – for what purpose, we don’t know. People in the know, however, think he’ll opt out of a bid. I would say Berger’s chances of running are 40%, probably less. In the end, the promise of being the most powerful man in Raleigh is too alluring to pass up for an uncertain and difficult bid for higher office. But Tillis should be on his toes, just in case.

-PPP was out in the field again this weekend, surveying the voters of our great state. They tweet that McCrory’s approval is eroding even among Republicans, meaning that their poll this week will probably yield his lowest numbers ever. But perhaps more interesting will be their update on the U.S. Senate race, in particular the Republican primary. Notably, this will be their first poll without Virginia Foxx. This will mean a new “frontrunner” or poll leader, as Foxx led their previous polls.

Who will it be? In a bit of fortuitous timing for Berger’s Senate “trial balloon”, I predict the new frontrunner will be – Phil Berger. Why? Well, he was second in their last poll (tied with Cain). More importantly, Foxx and Berger share the same geographic base, and I would expect him to receive the bulk of her support.

Another reason for my prediction – and this is not to impugn the integrity of the fine folks at PPP – is that I’m sure they would love to see a Tillis/Berger showdown, as would the Hagan campaign. Berger may be legitimately undecided, and a PPP poll showing him as the new frontrunner might go a long way to “push” him toward a bid.

So don’t be surprised if, in a day or two, you see a new poll from PPP showing Berger as the new frontrunner. You heard it here first. If I’m right, I’ll be sure to gloat about it later. But if I’m wrong, I’ll delete this post and never mention it again.

John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: johncwynne@gmail.com.

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