The 2024 elections have begun

Published August 3, 2023

By Tom Campbell

Lincoln said you can fool some of the people all of the time, the only explanation I can offer for why Trump and Biden are tied at 43 percent in the New York Times presidential poll released Tuesday.

The 2020 election gave Trump a narrow victory in North Carolina. Democrats believe they can win in 2024. President Biden has promised millions in ad dollars and personal appearances. Momentum appears to be favoring Democrats. Their new, young leadership is energized, drumming up support and recruiting candidates. Perhaps there’s a lot going on within the state GOP, but there doesn’t seem to be the same level of enthusiasm.

A lot can happen between now and election day, November 5, 2024, but it’s not as far off as you might think. North Carolina’s candidate filing opens December 4th and closes December 15 - four months from now. Additionally, our legislature, hoping we could have a larger voice in the nomination of presidential candidates, set primary elections for March 5th, seven months away.

Donald Trump is unquestionably the wild card. Those of us who have followed North Carolina can think of only a handful who have had such influence and power. Republicans are scared to speak out against him, but neither do we hear many speaking strongly in support of him.  

The latest indictment is bound to impact the race. We just don’t know how much. Bloomberg reported this week that Trump’s PAC has spent more than $40 million on legal fees in the first half of the year and his campaign may be having financial problems. Biden is outraising Trump; Trump is outspending Biden. It is easy to envision Trump’s attention diverted to trials and his money to lawyers. If campaign money dries up, all bets are off, but Trump is a master at delay and stall. He has a 30-point margin over his next primary opponent and is unquestionably the 800-pound gorilla in the election.

How will Trump affect the North Carolina gubernatorial primary? Sooner or later all the statewide candidates are going to have to show their cards regarding ’45.  In the gubernatorial contest Lt. Governor Mark Robinson, leads in polling and appears to have Trump’s blessing. The bombastic Robinson, like the Donald, is focusing on social issues. State Treasurer Dale Folwell is putting out lots of press releases and is working throughout the state, saying he is a doer, not a talker. But so far, he’s been quiet on Trump. Former congressman Mark Walker joined the gubernatorial primary, but there’s not much from his campaign so far. And the latest entry, former state senator Andy Wells (who lost to Robinson in the 2020 Lt. Governor’s election) is staying away from the Trump circus so far. Those declarations will likely determine how the primary votes get split and who ultimately becomes the nominee.

The Democratic nomination for president seems all but sewed up and North Carolina Democrats will also have to decide how close they want to run with President Biden. Attorney General Josh Stein, the frontrunner, has not been bashful in his support for Biden. There’s also noise that Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan is thinking of a challenge for the nomination and it will be interesting to learn how he differentiates himself.

Statewide candidates have traditionally looked to the top of their party tickets to run with or away from. North Carolina mirrors the nation right now in saying they don’t like either of the two apparent choices. They worry about Biden’s age and just don’t like Trump.

Former Governor Pat McCrory is co-chair of the national No Labels movement, and they want to offer another option to the two parties. There appears to be much energy for the initiative, however even those who like the concept say the timing isn’t right for ’24, citing basic math.

Third party candidates have often been the spoiler in presidential elections. Conservative George Wallace ran on a third-party platform in 1968, winning 31 percent of the North Carolina vote. Nixon got 39.5 percent and Humphrey came in third at 29.2 percent. Nixon won our state and the presidency. In the 1992 election, Ross Perot garnered 13.7 percent of the popular vote in our state, George HW Bush received 43.44 percent and Bill Clinton got 42.6 percent. The national split defeated an incumbent president.

Assuming Trump and Biden are the nominees a third-party candidate next year gives Trump a victory. He is going to get at least 30 percent of the vote in North Carolina unless lightning strikes. Any third-party candidate is likely to take votes away from Biden. Trump wins.

The 2024 elections are cranking up and will be both interesting and impactful. Our advice: get involved, stay informed and watch out for the spin.

Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina Broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965.  Contact him at