The following is a column by Mark Shiver, host of “What Matters in North Carolina”
Attorney General Roy Cooper fumbled badly Tuesday night. The final debate between candidates in the race to be North Carolina’s governor was held at the studios of WRAL, and featured Gov. Pat McCrory, Cooper, and Libertarian candidate Lon Cecil. I tuned in eagerly, hoping to see if Cooper had gone to work with his campaign advisors and debate-prep team in an effort to improve on what was a dismal performance his last time out. I was genuinely surprised at what I saw.
Cooper appeared to be even less prepared for this debate, and came off as anything but legitimate governor-material. While McCrory projected an aura of calm confidence and assurance that established facts about the surging North Carolina economy were on his side, Cooper floundered through nearly every question. He responded by essentially reciting the latest leftist talking points, which were painfully obvious in their lack of veracity.
The ultimate meltdown for Cooper came during the questions about recent tax reform in North Carolina. McCrory ran through the litany of tax reforms that have fueled the state’s economic engine over the past several years. When given the opportunity to rebut McCrory’s answer, Cooper was all over the place with typical blather about the tax reform only helping the wealthy.
One of the moderators, WRAL’s David Crabtree, then asked Cooper if he would repeal the tax cuts. Cooper melted down in a response that can only be described as rambling and incoherent:
Cooper’s fumbling may very well be a significant point in the race for governor. It illuminated brightly the reality that talking points rarely stand up under the scrutiny of questions. It also showed Cooper as lacking in any serious plan to further advance the state’s economy. It was a moment that undoubtedly Cooper would like to have back.
Cooper was empty, repeatedly saying that “HB 2 is all he [McCrory] wants to talk about,” which seemed glaringly out of place with the dialogue that went on throughout the debate. Even when the topic did turn to HB 2, McCrory offered a fact that was devastating to Cooper’s chances of winning the debate.
McCrory asked if he or anyone present knew what the penalty was for violating the gender identity provisions of the Charlotte ordinance that precipitated HB 2. As the state’s attorney general, one would think that Cooper would have known the answer. But, he didn’t know about the penalty, which could have been a $500 fine or 30 days in jail. It was simply another example of Cooper not being prepared. This post on Twitter sums it up:
— Patrick Sebastian (@PDSebastian) October 19, 2016
McCrory said he’d love to have more debates, but it is likely that Cooper couldn’t get out of WRAL fast enough. To the detriment of voters, Cooper can now spend the vast sums of money his campaign has received from special interest groups to lob false talking points across the airways. For McCrory, this clear debate victory might propel him to a win in November.