Over the past few months, I’ve heard concerns about Josh Stein’s ability to defeat Mark Robinson. Much of the angst has come from African American political observers and summed up in a recent column by Cash Michaels. He asks, “Can Josh Stein really beat Mark Robinson?”
Michaels’ argument suggests that high turnout by rural conservative voters, both Black and White, will give Robinson the boost he needs to defeat Stein. He’s right on two points. First, rural African American voters, especially men, are leaving the Democratic Party, their traditional home, for the GOP over cultural issues like abortion and LGBT rights. He’s also correct that, if Trump is the GOP nominee, rural turnout will be sky high. GOP turnout was 81% in 2020, led by rural counties.
However, Robinson will lose women by huge margins. He will lose the moderate swing voters by large margins. While Michaels is correct that Stein needs a strong African American turnout, that surge needs to be in more urban areas among younger Black voters and among women voters.
I believe the 2024 election is going to be driven by women. The Dobbs decision awakened them. While they didn’t show up in North Carolina in 2022 like they did in other parts of the country, they will respond to restrictions the GOP just enacted on their right to choose. And they will flat out reject a candidate who has said over and over that he wants to end all access to abortion services. Women, especially younger ones, will abandon the GOP, giving Democrats unprecedented margins.
A recent national poll says that almost 80% of women under 50 disagree with the Dobbs decision. In addition, almost 80% of African Americans disagree with it. I suspect the number of African American women who disagree is even higher. And I believe the decision has politicized them.
North Carolina has a long history of rejecting extremists and Mark Robinson is an extremist. He’s made that clear on video, tape, and in print. He’s called gay people “filth.” He’s said that women should not be leaders. He’s called for an outright ban on abortion. And he’s done it over and over. His handlers can keep in a box all they want, but they can’t keep Robinson’s own words from telling the truth on him.
While I would like to see Democrats field a more diverse Council of State slate than is shaping up, the presidential race is going to be the great driver of turnout in 2024. It always is. Trump’s people are coming. Democrats need to put resources into ensuring they get a strong turnout, too.
Finally, Josh Stein is a strong candidate. He’s battle tested. He’s won two races with Trump topping the ticket. That’s nothing to sneeze at. There aren’t a lot of candidates in the country that can make that claim. He will put together the organization and raise the money. The Democratic Governors Association has already said North Carolina will be their top priority next year. The resources will be there.
If history is any measure, North Carolina voters will reject extremism at the ballot box. They won’t elect a candidate as divisive as Mark Robinson. His rhetoric will come back to bite him. His embrace of Donald Trump will turn out to be a liability. Stein and his allies will run a strong campaign that defines Robinson in the minds of voters. And I don’t believe Robinson really has the discipline to keep his mouth shut for almost a year and a half.