Veteran North Carolina political consultant Pope “Mac” McCorkle says he thinks the Republican National Convention, which starts today (Monday), will highlight the importance of North Carolina for Republicans in the fall race.
“The South is not going to be a battleground … in general because that’s going to be Trump territory,” says McCorkle, an associate professor of the practice in public policy at the Sanford School.
“In North Carolina, however, I think it’s going to be a very generic Republican-Democratic race,” said McCorkle, who previously worked as an issues consultant including former North Carolina Democratic Govs. Mike Easley and Bev Perdue.
“If Trump does not win North Carolina that really bodes badly for him. If Clinton wins North Carolina I think that’s a good sign that Clinton’s going to be the victor. North Carolina is a must-have state for Trump. It’s a good state for Clinton to win but it’s a must-have for Trump.”
McCorkle predicts little trouble for Trump at the convention, although he noted that a number of the state delegates committed to him actually favor other candidates and could abandon him if there is a second ballot.
"The role of the North Carolina Republican Convention delegates is not going be a major one at the convention in many respects,” McCorkle said. “We have a proportional state split in the Republican delegation. On the first ballot I think you should expect 29 people are going to faithfully vote for Trump, and 27 are going to vote for Cruz and then Kasich and Rubio will get (some delegates).
“They will add up to a Trump victory on the first ballot. Now if something goes haywire that’s where it does get interesting because North Carolina is more of a true-blue Republican state.”
North Carolina will also have highly contested US Senate and governor’s races this year, which could be affected by the presidential campaign. Trump’s selection of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice presidential candidate could help Republicans in the state, McCorkle said.
“The way Pence helps is that he helps solidify the true-blue solid Republican support and North Carolina, to a great extent, is a state like that.
“The problem for Trump is that you would hope that he would not have needed that help … and that his vice-presidential candidate would have been a value added somewhere else, but instead he’s shoring up the base support. And I think Gov. Pence does fit that bill and probably fits (with) a lot of North Carolina delegates, to be honest, better than Trump does.”
Presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has her own work to do to shore up support in the state. McCorkle said selecting a ticket-mate from a neighboring state might aid Tar Heel Democrats.
“(Virginia Sen. Tim) Kaine would help Clinton in North Carolina mainly because he wouldn’t be a Massachusetts liberal or he wouldn’t be another kind of liberal.
“The strange thing that’s going on this time, based on my old experience, is the Democratic side … has had to worry about the presidential ticket and how did it fit with the state and the political culture, and did the state candidate want to be appearing with the presidential candidates.
“This year that’s a question almost exclusively on the Republican side and that’s a real change. Democratic candidates for governor and senator seem happy to show up with Sen. Clinton and are backing Sen. Clinton. And if she picked Kaine that would just add to that comfort level.”