What a difference a day makes

Published March 5, 2020

By Tom Campbell

The American Revolution may have claimed “the shot heard round the world,” but the 2020 Primary Elections had the endorsement heard round the country. When South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn announced Saturday he was endorsing Joe Biden in the state’s primary, Biden’s 30 point victory demonstrated just how quickly political fortunes can change. North Carolina was evidence of those changes, as were most Super Tuesday states.
As of midnight Thursday, February 27th, the State Board of Elections reported some 540,000 North Carolinians had voted. By the Saturday close of early voting more than 793,000, some 11 percent of our 6.9 million registered voters, voted early. You can be certain that more than a few of them later wished they hadn’t.
Many prominent North Carolina Democrats, worried how a Bernie Sanders nomination would impact our elections, had announced their support for former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, including a former governor, big city Mayors, the two Democratic leaders of the legislature and scores of prominent Democrats. It wasn’t that they loved the billionaire who spent $15 million in advertising in our state. Many favored Joe Biden, but his lackluster debate performances, lack of money and poor campaign organization had them worried. They were convinced a Sanders nomination would cause a “red tide” tsunami victory for Republicans and they wanted to pick someone who could defeat Trump.
Clyburn’s endorsement, followed by the withdrawal and endorsements from Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar, brought a quick and momentous change - “Joe-mentum,” as Clyburn called it. On election day, Mike Silver’s 538 blogsite reflected the rapid movement. The respected blogger listed five possible scenarios for Super Tuesday, with all but one predicting Biden would win more convention delegates than Sanders.
Pollsters and pundits had labeled our state a tossup in the Democratic presidential primary, but large crowds, led by a groundswell of African American voters, created long lines at many precincts. Biden won by a whopping 19 percentage points, garnering an initial 35 of our 110 convention delegates to Sanders’ 15.  Bloomberg didn’t even get the requisite 15 percent needed to be eligible to receive delegates and halted his campaign the next day. Senator Elizabeth Warren didn’t get to 15 percent either.
Space restrictions won’t permit a full rundown of races and candidates, but let’s note a few of interest. Runoff elections are likely for the Democratic Lieutenant Governor’s race. Yvonne Lewis Holley held a slight lead over Senator Terry Van Duyn, but not the needed 30 percent threshold needed to win outright. In the 11th District race for Congress, vacant because of the departure of Mark Meadows, neither Republican Lynda Bennett, from Maggie Valley, nor second place finisher Madison Cawthorn, from Hendersonville, took the nomination outright.  
In the Superintendent of Public Instruction race Catherine Truitt, the sometimes-controversial former education advisor to Governor McCrory, bested House Education committee chairman Craig Horn for the Republican nomination. Jen Mangrum, who formerly had run against Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, won the Democratic nod from a field of five. And with nine Republicans vying for the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor we were a bit surprised that Greensboro’s Mark Robinson won easily. It was also notable that Asheville’s Moe Davis won the Democratic nomination over five competitors in the 11th District congressional primary. And Democrat Jenna Wadsworth ensured there wouldn’t be a rematch between Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler and Walter Smith. Neither will Mike LaPaglia get a repeat with Elaine Marshall, as E. C. Sykes won the Republican Secretary of State nomination
The heated Republican contest for Attorney General didn’t live up to expectations, as District Attorney Jim O’Neill took the nomination. The vacant 6th Congressional district Democratic contest had five contestants, with Greensboro’s Kathy Manning handily winning.
So the stage is set for the November 3rd election. Candidates will have an inordinate period between now and then to raise money and campaign, knowing that the national races will grab most of the attention and TV airtime. But you can be assured that each and every one will remember what a difference a day can make when it comes to elections.