3 weeks out from NC primaries, Dems are in trouble

Published April 28, 2022

By Dallas Woodhouse

Three weeks away from North Carolina’s delayed primary election, the most important political news in the Tar Heel state has nothing to do with the primary elections. As reported by Carolina Journal, the latest Civitas Poll shows an absolute political crisis for North Carolina Democrats that they are virtually powerless to address.

The poll of likely general election voters shows support for the GOP at 52% on a generic congressional ballot, with only 40% for Democrats. Support for Republican legislative and congressional candidates has ticked up 5 percentage points since March 2021.

A 12-point advantage for the Republicans on the generic ballot is simply unprecedented. The huge lead for Republicans is of course directly tied to President Biden’s abysmal standing in North Carolina, where only 36% of likely voters approve of Biden’s job performance.

Look at it this way.

Because Republican voters are more efficiently spread out across the state compared to Democrats, who concentrate in highly urban areas, Republicans don’t need the generic ballot to be even for a status-quo election. While a generic ballot that favored Democrats by four points (D+4) would lead to favorable statewide election conditions for Democrats, that same (D+4) in the legislative elections would produce a “push” election. Basically, Democrats would win some close races as would Republicans, with little overall change in the total number of seats for each party.

An even generic ballot, of course, would lead to razor-close statewide elections, but it would also lead to very favorable legislative election results for the GOP.

If Biden’s approval is in the 30’s come November, Democrats will face a wave of election defeats that would be broad, deep, and unparalleled in modern North Carolina history. Any money invested in the U.S. Senate race to elect Cheri Beasley would be a complete waste. Democrat donors would get more value out of their money by setting it on fire to keep warm. Democrat candidates for state Supreme Court will lose in an embarrassing fashion.

A generic ballot advantage north of 8 points for the GOP in November would easily hand Republicans supermajorities in both chambers.

As a matter of fact, Republicans working on the legislative races believe if the election were held today, Republicans would capture the largest number of overall seats they have had in the last 130 years, equaling or topping the 35 out of 50 State Senate seats the GOP had in 2017-2018 and the 77 out of 120 seats the GOP controlled in 2013-2014.

Some of those seats will be in districts that Democrats will quickly capture back in 2024. But not all. Democrats will spend the rest of the decade trying to whittle the huge GOP majorities.

If North Carolina Republicans win these kinds of lopsided margins in the General Assembly in 2022, they would be heavily favored to hold veto-proof supermajorities through 2025-2026, the first two years of North Carolina’s next governors’s two-year term.

These kinds of shocking numbers would put some longtime Democratic incumbents in peril in seats that are normally safe for Democrats.

In the statehouse, Deb Butler is in a solidly Democratic district. Civitas partisan index rates the New Hanover County district as D+6, meaning in a two-person race in an election similar to 2020, Butler would be expected to win roughly 55-45.

Republicans believe Butler’s seat is in play this year. And while it seems a stretch as a D+8 district, Republicans also think they have a shot to defeat one of the state’s most reliable progressive/liberal voices, State Rep. Greg Meyer, who represents Orange and Caswell counties.

Rep Terry Garrison, D-Granville, is also in the sights of the NCGOP, with a district that Civitas rates as D+7. Republicans are also targeting several open/Democratic held seats in urban counties including H.D. 104 held by Democrat Brandon Lofton, D-Mecklenburg.

In the state Senate, Republicans will once again target the Greenville-area S.D. 5 seat, currently held by state Sen. Don Davis, D-Pitt. Davis is running for North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. Civitas rates the seat as D+5, a seat normally out of the competitive range for the GOP, but not this year. 

The GOP also has its sights on flipping two Wake County state Senate seats currently held by Democrats (S.D. 17 and 18). Both of these seats are rated as leaning Democrat at D+2, but the GOP would be favored in the current election environment. Other Senate seats in Wake and Guilford are coming into focus for the GOP, too. Republicans will not likely win all of these seats, though, and a small rebound back to the Democrats is likely before November.

But the Civitas poll numbers show North Carolina Democrats facing a political disaster of epic biblical proportions. If the election were held today, Democrats would be slaughtered, up and down the ballot, from the statehouse to local courthouses.