RALEIGH – Exactly one year from today, voting day polls will open for state legislative races and midterm congressional races. Both will be an important indicator of voter approval, for the Republican super-majorities on Jones Street and the thinner Republican majorities on Capitol Hill. It will also be an important gauge of approval or discontent with the first two years of President Donald Trump’s term at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Stateside, Democrats are practically drooling over their opportunity to put a dent in the Republicans’ veto-proof majority in the N.C. General Assembly. A series of lawsuits filed by the Democrat-in-Chief Roy Cooper and other Leftist interest groups against the Republican legislature have done their job of spinning up the ‘Evil Republicans’ narrative in the media as well as giving judges an undue influence over the legislative process.
And different legislative maps, drawn by a “non-partisan” Special Master may indeed give Democrats a fighting chances in several races. However, Leftists have a tendency to misjudge just how well their Conservative smear campaigns really play with audiences outside of their Liberal urban bubbles.
More often is that case that voters from out in the county worry more about what the politicking on Jones Street will mean for their small-businesses, their wallets, and their sense of liberty to live their lives as they please. On that front, Conservatives have an inherent advantage because their philosophy of smaller government and more secure individual rights that speaks to those issues that animate voters.
The Republicans in Raleigh, though their faults are many, have to a large degree delivered the largest Conservative policy wins in generations. Doggedly pursuing and achieving regulatory reform; persistently lowering tax rates across the spectrum; funding core government services amply, but sensibly; instituting fiscally conservative budgeting practices; and, stepping out of line just enough to keep Conservatives suspicious all the while.
And that’s how it should be. Complacency has no place in politics, as those governments with power will inevitably gravitate toward a state of cronyism and pomposity.
The political calculus is altogether different for a thin and relatively ineffective Republican majority in Washington, which is battling both the requisite Democrat opposition, and near constant overtures to the policies of the Left by Republican Leadership and climbers like North Carolina’s Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC).
Neither U.S. Senator from the Tar Heel State is on the ticket in 2018 but the next 12 months will be critical for gauging whether Tillis will attempt to extend his foray in the Swamp or perhaps contest a probable Dan Forest run in 2020. To that end, Pat McCrory may be running again..
Tillis’ dog costume competitions and Dreamer amnesty pushes may not be enough to endear him to base voters, unless he’s running as a Democrat. He said recently at an event in Raleigh that he has 18 months to decide if he’s accomplished enough to be proud to run again. Exactly what he accomplished(s), being that he is rated so low on approval and conservative scores, should be of concern.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) has professed repeatedly that he is retiring after his current term expires in 2022, so an open race there maybe a chance to have a Mark Meadows figure in the upper chamber representing North Carolina.
Indeed Meadows and his Freedom Caucus may only grow in prominence between now and election day 2018, aided by the new wave of firebrand Republican primary contenders ushered along by Steve Bannon’s War on the Establishment.
But between now and then, as we’ve learned over the last 12 months, a lot can change…or not. Which is worse is hard to foretell. Republicans have had much success in the last series of midterm elections, notwithstanding having Obama to ‘run against.’
But be careful about the “This time is Different.” attitude; lower turnout and the absence of a presidential line on the ballot often means that midterms can lead to wave as animated voters turn out disproportionately and wield an over sized influence on the outcome.
A a tip to tip red state with massive pockets of urban blue make North Carolina a microcosm of the national picture and it’s borne out in the juxtaposition of Meadows and Tillis, the Republican General Assembly, and Roy Cooper. The residual rural North Carolina Trump enthusiasm could reinforce Republican majorities despite redistricting and a united opposition, though only if Republicans in D.C. can deliver on at least one key agenda item.
Besides all the characters the 2018 elections will be a judgement on the success of Republican polices here in North Carolina and whether or not they can deliver on Capitol Hill. Politically, the Old North State will become only more consequential.