Published January 2, 2020
By Thomas Mills
With the beginning of a new decade as well as a new year, I’ll venture into a few predictions. After the election of Donald Trump, I no longer have a lot of confidence in my ability to predict the electorate. That said, here goes.
First, for the next decade. I predict North Carolina will continue to grow and will pick up one Congressional seat after the 2020 census and be poised to pick up another in 2030. That will give us growing influence in presidential elections and House races. I also predict that the increasing population will lead to a more Democratic state. By the end of the decade, both US Senators from North Carolina will be Democrats and the governor will be, too. The Congressional delegation will continue to be more evenly split because of gerrymandering. Gerrymandering will also protect Republicans in the state senate, though their majority will dwindle by the end of the decade. Democrats will dominate the state house for most of the decade.
Which leads to the new year. The election this year will be overwhelmingly driven by the presidential contest, which will be nasty and loud in the state. In the Democratic primary here, Joe Biden will win the state because of the unshakable support of African-American voters. New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg will do surprisingly well here with a robust organization and if Amy Klobuchar has momentum coming out of Iowa, she could surprise us, keeping a tight three-way race. If Democrats nominate Biden, Klobuchar or Bloomberg, Trump loses in a landslide nationally, and loses North Carolina by a more narrow margin. If they nominate Sanders, Trump will win in a landslide here and probably nationally. I don’t think Warren can win North Carolina, but she could keep it close and might win nationally.
Roy Cooper will be re-elected governor. It’s hard to unseat a sitting governor and Cooper hasn’t done anything that galvanizes opposition outside of the usual GOP critics. Republicans have tried to manufacture scandals but the public isn’t buying them.
Still, it won’t be an easy campaign. I suspect Dan Forest will win the GOP nomination fairly easily and a ton of money will come into the state to support him. However, the state is not very welcoming to hard core social conservatives and that’s what he is. I predict Cooper wins 52-48 if Trumps gets defeated, but it’s closer if Trump loses.
In the Democratic primary for US Senate, I think Cal Cunningham will win, mainly because of the money coming in behind him. However, Erica Smith will keep the race a lot closer than most observers now think. Cunningham will benefit from the large primary turnout driven by the presidential contest. In November, if Trump wins the state, Thom Tillis gets re-elected. If Trump loses, the Democratic nominee will win.
In the legislature, Democrats will narrowly take back the state house if the Democratic nominee for president wins the state. If Trump wins it again, Republicans will control the redistricting process completely. And here’s a 2021 prediction. If Democrats win one chamber and Republican win the other, they will pass redistricting reform that takes map-drawing out of the hands of legislators.