Polling Points to NC as 2020 Battleground

RALEIGH – The Old North State probably received more attention in the 2016 election cycle, from national political candidates and media, than any other election in recent history. Donald Trump and his surrogates held numerous events across the state during his campaign, and North Carolina was largely viewed as a ‘must win’ for either candidate.

New polling results from Public Policy Polling (PPP) indicates that North Carolina will again be a battleground state in the 2020 elections, with comparable splits between Republican and Democratic candidates for president on down to statewide offices like governor.

From PPP:

PPP’s first North Carolina poll of the 2020 cycle finds the state is likely to once again be a key battleground for President next year. Voters in the state are closely divided on Donald Trump but split narrowly against him, with 46% approving of the job he’s doing to 50% who disapprove.

In match ups against 6 possible Democratic opponents next year, Trump consistently
polls in the 44-46% range against all of them. The Democrats poll at anywhere from 45% to 49% with their individual levels of support running roughly in line with their levels of name recognition.

“Donald Trump’s not very popular in North Carolina,” said Dean Debnam, President of
Public Policy Polling. “After winning the state by 4 points in 2016 he looks like even
money at best for 2020 in the state, at least at this early stage.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are the best known Democrats, with levels of name
recognition in the 80s, and Biden leads Trump 49-44 with Sanders leading Trump 48-45. Elizabeth Warren is the next best known with her level of name recognition in the 70s, and she ties Trump at 46%. Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, and Cory Booker all have levels of name recognition in the 50s. Harris ties Trump at 45%, with Booker and O’Rourke each a tick behind Trump at 46-45.”

Of course, polling of this nature should be taken with a few grains of salt. For one, PPP is a Left-leaning outfit. Additionally, being that it is only January 2019, and polls are only as good as the people willing to actually take them, these results are far from certain. The idea that Bernie Sanders would best a sitting Republican president, even one as divisive as Trump, is laughable. Moreover, we know from 2016 how spectacularly wrong pollsters were when it came to who was going to win the White House.

A lot will happen between now and election day 2016, so patterns in place now in no way indicate how the chips will fall in November 2020.

Still, there are quite a few interesting results of these polls, particularly in regards to sdown ballot politicians.

“[Gov. Roy] Cooper is also the only sitting official with a positive approval rating in the state right now. Besides Trump’s negative approval Richard Burr comes in at 33/36 and Thom Tillis who is up for reelection next year comes in at 31/37. Cooper leads 5 potential Republican opponents for next year by anywhere from 4 to 14 points. The closest possible contest is a rematch with McCrory- Cooper would start out ahead 45-41. The only other Republican who keeps Cooper to a single digit edge is Tillis who would trail him 46-37 if he decided to try to get back into state politics. […]”

It makes sense that the sitting governor, backed by a fawning media and always playing victim of the Republican legislature, would have a positive approval rating. It also makes sense that a statewide elected U.S. Senator like Thom Tillis would be underwater – he is disliked by partisan Democrats, and loathed by principled grassroots Republicans.

But the fact that these polling results show former Pat McCrory as the closest challenger to Cooper is merely a matter of familiarity among the voting base. Many people couldn’t pick the lieutenant governor, N.C. House Speaker, or N.C. Senate leader out of a line up, and it shows in the numbers.

Even so, it is interesting that Speaker Tim Moore is underwater at about 2-1 in approval.

The numbers are similar for Senate leader Phil Berger:

Beyond capturing public sentiment, polling can also shape public opinion going forward. For instance, if Establishment Republican consultants look at these results, they may be inclined to recruit Pat McCrory or Thom Tillis to reclaim the governor’s mansion, instead of backing Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is assured to run.

But, as recent elections in the state have shown us, that could be a big mistake. Not for the moderate consultants, who make money either way, but for those that actually want a Republican governor. For instance, Republican state lawmakers got routed in the major metropolitan centers of Mecklenburg and Wake Counties in 2018. The people that got beat, however, are those moderate Establishment types like Nelson Dolllar in Wake County. Who escaped the carnage? The most unabashedly conservative among the group – Se. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg).

Let’s hope such polling doesn’t give any momentum to efforts to recruit a milquetoast Republican, or outright RINO, to challenge Cooper. They will lose. What we need is a principled conservative carrying a message of truly limited government and allowing for North Carolinians to prosper from their hard work without the State sliding hands in there pockets. It’s matters very little that the candidate that best matches that profile, Dan Forest, is behind in these polls. As campaigns are launched, messages spread, and people start paying attention, that will change dramatically.

Circling back to the presidential race, these polls merely confirm what we already know: North Carolina is an important battleground state that will get a lot of attention in the next presidential election. Expect to see President Trump in the Old North State quite a bit in 2020.

You can review the detailed poll results from PPP here.


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