The following is a column by Mark Shiver, host of “What Matters in North Carolina”
Gov. Pat McCrory lost his bid for reelection largely due to self-inflicted wounds. As someone who has been around the game of politics for a lot of years, I can tell you that an accumulation of factors came together to spoil his bid to serve a second term. For HB 2 haters, as much as you’d love to place the blame on the common-sense legislation that many in North Carolina support, that legislation in itself was not his undoing. I find several factors that, in my opinion, loom much larger.
First of all, McCrory tried to throw his weight around with the North Carolina Senate. That is not of itself a bad thing necessarily, but the way he did it was disastrous.
For example, during contentious budget debates in 2014, McCrory lambasted Senate Republicans, including President Pro Tem Phil Berger. Gary Pearce, longtime associate of former Gov. Jim Hunt, wrote on his “Talking About Politics” blog: “This increasingly looks like a political death match – with one survivor in the end. I’m betting on Phil Berger. Yesterday Governor McCrory compared Senator Berger & Co. to Marc Basnight, Tony Rand and – yes – Harry Reid.” Now, it’s clear that McCrory indeed isn’t that survivor.
I was working in the NC Senate at the time, and I clearly recall telling some of my colleagues that saying something like that would come back to bite McCrory. As he had counted on these very same senators he had just insulted publicly for major support, both politically and financially in 2012, I remember saying, “I wonder how many senators are going to be willing to help him when he comes around asking for campaign help in 2016?” Later I even heard comments from Senate members that their support for McCrory would be less than enthusiastic in 2016.
Politics 101: Don’t bite the hand(s) that feed you. Everyone with any political acumen at that time knew that Sen. Phil Berger (R-Guilford) was the man on Jones Street. Apparently McCrory missed that particular lesson.
Secondly, I heard routinely that McCrory was not very excited about having to do fundraising this time around. In the face of millions of out-of-state money flowing to North Carolina for the Cooper campaign, McCrory was faced with a reality that every politician hates, but that is crucial: Fundraising is a must. I scratched my head when I heard that McCrory just did not want to pick up the phone and make those pleas to his donor base for financial support.
According to the most recent news reports, as of Oct. 20, Cooper had taken in $21.8 million, while McCrory had gathered $13.9 million. For a challenger to raise 56 percent more than an incumbent is stunning.
To be honest, I was not in any inner-circle meetings. But the word that I heard was that he did not want to fundraise and was neglecting that part of his campaign. Politics 101: You have to raise money.
Thirdly, McCrory was the face of HB 2. It was not the bill itself that sank him, but the concentrated attack on him by the radical Left and their cohorts in the media that hurt. For those who assert that HB 2 was the reason McCrory lost, I merely point to the outstanding results for Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who was much more outspoken in support of the bill than McCrory ever was, and who also in the preliminary results tallied 94,000 more votes than the governor. Also, note that Republicans in General Assembly, who actually passed the legislation, maintained a super majority in both chambers.
Finally, a lack of good customer service, something I experienced and heard from others who had reached out to the Governor’s Office or his campaign for one reason or another. Unfortunately, a lack of good customer service was something common.
For example, look at what many say was the final nail in the McCrory campaign coffin: the toll road controversy in Charlotte.
A familiar refrain from folks in Mecklenburg and Iredell counties was that the NCDOT did not care, or that the Governor’s office was not responding to their concerns. Real or not this was their perception.
People remember these things, and apparently voters in those previously Republican-stronghold precincts in that area remembered well when they filled in the circle beside Cooper’s name.
Here’s a telling statistic Susan Myrick of Civitas has culled from the preliminary election results: In those two counties, McCrory received almost 19,000 fewer votes than his own lieutenant governor, Dan Forest. That right there was enough to sink McCrory’s campaign.
In summary, from the variety of views that I have had into the McCrory administration over the past four years, I have witnessed a failure to do the things necessary to win a modern election. McCrory’s loss was not because of Moral Monday or HB 2. Remember, it was a very close race, not by any means a mandate from the people to abandon conservative policies that have created jobs, raised teacher pay and put North Carolina in the spotlight as a prime state in which to do business. Rather, the loss was due to an accumulation of a lot of little things, or as one pundit said, death to the campaign came by a thousand cuts, some of which were self-inflicted.