With the 2022 midterm election only a few weeks behind, it may seem early to start looking at 2024. Nevertheless, jostling has already begun for what will be a monumental election year in North Carolina. In the October edition of the Carolina Forward Poll, we examined how several key races for 2024 are beginning to shape up in our state.
Not only will North Carolina play a pivotal role in the 2024 Presidential election, but our state will also elect a new governor, marking a major passing of the torch after eight years under Governor Roy Cooper (who is term-limited). Donald Trump won North Carolina in 2020 by just a tiny sliver: only about 74,000 votes (or 1.4 percentage points), making it the fifth-closest contest nationally. As President Biden seeks a presumptive second term, North Carolina will undoubtedly be one of the most hotly-contested states in the country.
The October edition of the Carolina Forward Poll found that Biden and Trump are (once again) tied in voters’ 2024 preference, at 44-44. Urban and rural voters are almost mirror images of one another, with Biden enjoying a commanding lead among the former and Trump in the latter. Suburban voters are still deeply divided, with Biden enjoying a slight lead:
In North Carolina's 2024 gubernatorial race, leading (but by no means certain - stay tuned) nominees Attorney General Josh Stein and Lt. Governor Mark Robinson are also closely matched. Robinson enjoys a 5-point advantage among men, while Stein has a 7-point lead with women. Robinson trails Stein by 9 points among suburban voters, almost identical to Trump's deficit. Overall, there is significant similarity between Robinson's support and Trump's, suggesting that the governor's race will hew closely to those lines.
The Raleigh political rumor mill, as usual, is rife with rumors about how the 2024 gubernatorial primaries may play out for both parties. While Attorney General Josh Stein and Lt. Governor Mark Robinson are widely presumed to be the nominees-in-waiting, 2024 is a long ways off. The October poll found that, in fact, the Democratic field is still relatively open, with no candidate yet enjoying a commanding lead. "Unsure" still leads in virtually every category:
The Republican 2024 gubernatorial field is a totally different story, however. Lt. Governor Mark Robinson seems to have the GOP gubernatorial primary sewn up, winning 50% right off the bat. Not even Senator Thom Tillis even comes remotely close:
There have been persistent rumors for months that Republican party leaders in Raleigh were hoping to sideline Robinson into another race - such as a custom-drawn Congressional district that he couldn't lose. Those hopes appear to be little more than wishful thinking. Mark Robinson is, instead, the closest thing to a leader the North Carolina Republican Party has - all the more incredible for a man who, only four years ago, was not even active in politics (nor owned a gun).
Of course, many things can change very quickly in politics. Yet it is looking increasingly likely that North Carolina may be headed into a "rematch" scenario of the 2020 election in 2024 - except on MAGA-fied steroids. Such an election will pit "normal" Democratic candidates, like Joe Biden and Josh Stein, against men who have defined their whole political identities as in-your-face, MAGA extremists. For a state in rapid political transition, that may be just the matchup Democrats are hoping for.