This map, comparing Pat McCrory’s performance with that of Donald Trump in North Carolina, tells you all you need to know about why Roy Cooper could be the next governor. It’s simple: Blue Dog Democrats out west came out for Trump, and then they voted for Cooper. The BLUE counties are where Trump/Cooper carried the day. The RED counties are where McCrory did better than Trump. The shading is in intervals of 5%, based on the difference between the margin for Trump and the margin for McCrory.
McCrory most underperformed Trump in Graham County, a very rural, isolated county in the North Carolina Mountains. In the rest of Appalachia, there was a similar story: McCrory underperformed Trump, by large margins. Trump-Cooper was definitely a thing, and McCrory owes his loss to those ticket-splitters.
Down East, the story was different. Perhaps because of McCrory’s stellar performance following Hurricane Matthew, voters there gave the governor a thumbs-up. Interestingly, McCrory’s strongest performance over Trump was concentrated in Black Belt counties. Could it be that the governor received a higher than usual percentage of the vote among African Americans, or did voters in these same counties vote for President and leave the rest of the ballot blank? It’s hard to say, but McCrory’s strongest performance compared to Trump was in Bertie County, the county with the highest percentage of African Americans in the state. McCrory probably owes much of his success there to Hurricane Matthew.
McCrory also outperformed Trump in his home county of Mecklenburg, but not enough to pull off a statewide win. And in the suburban counties around Mecklenburg, he failed to win the support of Trump supporters, especially in Iredell County, ground zero for the debate over tolls.
There were also a fair amount of McCrory-but-not-Trump voters in the Research Triangle counties of Orange and Durham, but the governor underperformed Trump in Wake County – again, rural voters appear to be responsible. Finally, McCrory lagged in the counties in the Wilmington area, losing New Hanover County in the process, again a bellwether county this year.
The governor’s race still isn’t over yet but if Cooper ekes out a victory, it’s because he did just well enough among the Blue Dog Democrat cohort, particularly out west, to win. This, combined with suburban backlash to HB 2 and other legislation, is why McCrory is now down pending a recount. Roy Cooper can credit Trump voters for his victory.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.