Seven things to consider on primary election day

Seven things to consider on primary election day


  1. North Carolina is still not playing a major role in the presidential race

Legislative leaders decided last session to move up North Carolina’s primary from May to March 15th so the state would have more influence on the presidential race.

But they also decided that delegates in the Republican primary would be allocated on a proportional basis instead of winner take-all like Florida and Ohio, states that are holding their primary the same day.

The result is that many national pundits consider North Carolina the least important primary of the day in the presidential race. And the real losers are the candidates for other offices and the voters who have not heard much about other races thanks to the presidential contest.

The winners are the incumbents in state offices running for reelection who in most cases face challengers that haven’t had much time to build a campaign and get their message out and break through all the noise about the presidential race.

2. Leaders of the North Carolina GOP helped created the Trump candidacy they are scrambling to stop

Whatever people think of Donald Trump, the North Carolina Republican Party establishment that is now terrified of his candidacy is partially responsible for his popularity in the state among Republican voters.

Trump was a featured speaker at the 2012 and 2015 state Republican conventions. In his 2012 remarks, he questioned where President Obama was born, playing his role as a key leader of the ridiculous birther movement that claimed Obama was not eligible to be president. The outrageous claim didn’t seem to bother party officials very much.

Neither did his remarks in his 2015 NC GOP convention speech where he described immigrants from Mexico as rapists, previewing the controversial remarks he made when he formally announced for president a few weeks later that set off a firestorm of protest.

The hateful rhetoric in his North Carolina address last summer didn’t raise any eyebrows either as prominent state Republicans all sat quietly in a ballroom and listened to Trump make his offensive remarks about immigrants.

Obviously the Trump candidacy has taken on a life of its own, but he had some help in North Carolina from people now terrified that he will be the Republican nominee for president.

3. President Obama is not nearly as unpopular as you might think.

Much of the Republican presidential campaign has included a competition between candidates to see who dislikes President Obama more or who can blame him most loudly for all of the nation’s problems, including bizarrely the rise of Donald Trump and the violence at Trump campaign events.

But the latest Gallup poll shows that 51 percent of Americans approve of the job President Obama is doing while 46 percent disapprove.

That is the exact approval rating of President Reagan at the same point in the second term of his presidency.

4. The public’s surprising view of the Affordable Care Act

It is almost taken as an article of faith among the political class that the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature achievement, is wildly unpopular and a liability for politicians who support it.

A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that is misleading, that a significant percentage of Americans don’t like the health care law not because they object to government playing a role in health care, but because they don’t think the law goes far enough in guaranteeing everyone access to care.

The poll found that 16 percent of Americans believe the law should be repealed and not replaced and another 13 percent wanted the law repealed and replaced with a still undefined Republican alternative.

But 36 percent believe that lawmakers should build on the existing law to improve affordability and access to care and another 24 percent believe leaders should establish universal coverage with a single government plan—the Bernie Sanders approach.

That means that 60 percent of Americans either support the ACA or believe it does not go far enough towards universal coverage.

That’s not something you hear every day but might explain some of Sanders’ appeal.

5. Prominent supporters of the Connect NC bond still can’t bring themselves to talk about the jobs it will create.

Voters will decide the fate of the $2 billion Connect NC bond issue Tuesday, most of them without hearing about the thousands of jobs it will create over the next five years.

Gov. Pat McCrory and other prominent supporters of the bond talk often about the projects it will fund in higher education, the state parks, local water and sewer systems, etc. but they never seem to mention the 5,000 jobs the construction projects will create every year for five years.

That would force them to acknowledge that direct public investments, like the federal stimulus program, can put thousands of people to work and jumpstart the economy.

They might be leaving votes on the table because of their ideological unwillingness to admit that the bond will put people to work and put $1.5 billion into the pocket of businesses and workers in the state.

6. Using Gov. McCrory’s own measurement, the Carolina Comeback isn’t living up to expectations

One of the key issues in this year’s campaign season is the performance of the state’s economy that is the subject of all sorts of political spin. There a lot of ways to measure how North Carolina is doing and one of them is the unemployment rate.

Gov. McCrory promised to get North Carolina’s rate lower than South Carolina’s but the current unemployment rate in North Carolina is now higher than all four of the states that border North Carolina—Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina.

The unemployment rate is certainly not the only way to measure economic success or even the best way, but it is one way that McCrory said he would measure progress and North Carolina is currently not doing as well as its neighbors. That makes it a little harder to tout an alleged Carolina Comeback.

7. The real winner of this year’s primary season is the movement for redistricting reform.

Millions of North Carolinians had no choice Tuesday in who to support for the General Assembly and will have no choice in November either.

In about a third of the races for the state House and Senate, there’s only one candidate running because of the way the districts where drawn to protect incumbents.

During the 2014 election only 8 percent of legislative races were competitive—decided by 5 percentage points or less—and that will likely be true again this year. That’s the way the politicians drew the lines and picked their voters.

That’s also why the congressional primary has been delayed, because a federal court said the congressional maps were unconstitutional. The public is catching on that we need a new redistricting process that allows people to choose their politicians instead of the other way around.

That has never been clearer than this year and let’s hope the momentum to end gerrymandering continues.

It might be the most important thing that comes out of this unusual election year.