Over the past few months, Democrats have held steady leads in most of North Carolina. A Morning Consult poll out yesterday has Cal Cunningham up by eight points, 47-39 and has Joe Biden leading Trump by three, 49-46. Numbers like that have been steady for most of the year. With September just a week away, Democrats appear to be in a strong position in the state, but there’s a lot of time left.
Conservative pundit Erick Erickson has an article out this morning making the case that the GOP convention is working and that we will see a Trump surge in the coming weeks. He argues that the Republican convention is hitting emotional hot spots for the moderate and swing voters who will determine the election. Among these voters, says Erickson, are Black men.
Erickson says that the Biden campaign is concerned about its standing with African American men, a group that is more likely to go to prison than college and more likely to find themselves unemployed than their White counterparts. Trump is appealing to them on economic issues and real criminal justice reform. He’s urging opening schools so working class families have a way to go to work without leaving kids unattended. He pardoned a Black man during the Republican National Convention to highlight his record on freeing Black men from prison while criticizing Joe Biden’s support for a crime bill that lead to mass incarceration.
Erickson may be trying to convince himself and his supporters not to get despondent, but he’s also seeing part of America the Democrats aren’t. Conservative news outlets and social media are awash in a narrative about cities burning and out of control. They see mob rule as the threat to America and share images of brutal scenes like the beating a man in Portland, burning firetrucks and protesters shooting fireworks at police.
Democrats, in contrast, see an extreme but justified reaction to unjustified police actions like the video-taped shooting of an unarmed man in Wisconsin this week. They say that lives are more valuable than property and that only actions to prevent abuses of police power will stop the use of unnecessary force, especially against minorities. They believe that Americans are so ready for change that they will tolerate a temporary breakdown of social order to advance the cause of the racial equity.
If Erickson is right, enough Black men will embrace a president who is trying to shake up a system that has been unfair to them that Trump can cut into the Democratic base by a few points. The middle, who have supported peaceful protests thus far, will become alarmed at the length of time the protests have continued, leaving people concerned about their own safety. Erickson predicts we will see a surge of Trump support following the convention because the GOP is setting the terms of the debate despite Democrats’ skepticism.
Even if this scenario starts to play out, in North Carolina, Thom Tillis has long way to go. He’s not trailing by the point or two he did in his first race against Kay Hagen. He’s behind by the upper single digits going down the stretch. He will close that gap some because the GOP base will reluctantly come home. The swing voters, though, have another choice. Tillis has a difficult path right now.
Biden, on the other hand, holds a narrow lead over Trump and Erickson’s prediction would hurt his standing. Swing voters might not jump on the Trump train but they would reject Biden for ignoring the protests and violence that Republicans are watching on Fox News. Black men frustrated with the pace of change, would stay home, much like they did in 2016 and few would even float over into Trump land.
We won’t know the lasting impact of the two conventions until after Labor Day weekend. Democrats think they put on a great show and Republicans believe they are putting on one, too. Both may be appealing mainly to people who already think like them. Democrats are arguing for competence and traditions. Republicans are arguing they will restore order in chaotic cities and stop the spread of lawlessness. They have two very different views of the world and visions for our country. November 3 will tell us which one is right.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >