How the Electoral Ball Bounces

The Republicans are in town this week, trying to figure out how to replicate the seven they rolled in North Carolina in 2012
Republican National Committee
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus

After a brief sojourn into blue state-dom, North Carolina went red again in 2012, mainly for three reasons:

a) Bev Perdue was a lousy governor. It was apparent about 15 minutes into her term that Pat McCrory was going to win in 2012.

b) Residual enthusiasm from the “don’t let the queers get married” crowd.

c) Republicans in the General Assembly, for the first time in more than a century, got to redraw congressional and legislative district lines.

Point being, it was an odd confluence of circumstances — well, that and gerrymandering — that led to the GOP “triumph” in North Carolina, as it led to Democratic victories in Ohio, Virginia and Florida. That’s the way it always is in battleground states. Some Republican strategists, thankfully, grasp this.

“I’m not sure there’s anything in the North Carolina example that can be replicated or macro conclusions that can be drawn from it,” says Tom Fetzer, a former state GOP chairman from Raleigh. “There was a pretty unique set of circumstances here that led to the outcomes …

“Time will tell whether this was a seismic shift or not or some kind of an aberration. And how Republicans govern will largely determine that.”

But to the crew gathered this week at the Westin for the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, it’s a “what works” success story that, if they could just replicate and execute it in those other fickle battleground states, could lead to that permanent Republican majority Karl Rove seemed so sure of back in ’04. As Republican strategist Marc Rotterman told Jim Morrill in the Observer, “North Carolina could be a model for ‘red state’ resurgence.”

Or not. That sanguine view glosses over McCrory’s status as the first Republican governor in 20 years, which would seem to bely the idea that the Tar Heel state is red by default; that the economic success McCrory hopes to build would attract a creative and young urban class that tends to vote Democratic, or at least hesitates to vote for people who suggest marriage to someone of your own gender is tantamount to marrying livestock; that winning legislative races is easier when your party gets to draw the district lines; and that, ultimately, using North Carolina in 2012 as some kind of “blueprint” is like ordering up a thunderstorm just like the last one.

(It’s also the sort of thing that leads North Carolina Republicans to whip out their checkbooks and fire up their PayPal accounts, which I suspect is the real reason for the “Success in N.C.” presentation-slash-marketing campaign.)

We’ll just have to see how 2014 and 2016 shake out. You’d be foolish, I think, to make overly firm predictions about anything.

Categories: Poking the Hornet’s Nest