Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Nation's Second Least Popular Governor

Governor Quinn of Illinois is the nation's least popular governor (see our post of December 6 "The Nation's Least Popular Governor ...").

Care to guess who WAS #2? That's soon to be in the past tense of the word 'is,' of course.

North Carolina as the Blueprint for a Red State Resurgence tells the story of how the limited government case continues to strengthen in many individual states:

"Democrats across the country are celebrating the re-election of President Obama and the pickup of two seats in the Senate and eight in the House. But in two formerly Democratic states, Republicans have much to be joyful about.

The GOP victory in North Carolina included the governorship, veto-proof majorities in the state Senate and House, control of 54 of the state's 100 counties, three new U.S. House seats, and a pivotal seat on the state Supreme Court. . . .

It is premature to declare North Carolina a reliably red state, but Republicans are "positioned to be the dominant party in North Carolina for at least a decade if not beyond," says GOP consultant Marc Rotterman.

The same is true in Arkansas, the second-best state for Republicans in last month's election. Both states offer Republicans an opportunity to unseat Democratic senators in 2014. . . .

Republicans in the Tar Heel State were unified, with all elements of the party, including social conservatives, engaged with the various campaigns. The GOP ticket was ideologically balanced, with moderate gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory at the top. The party, Republican campaigns, and GOP-oriented groups joined in a massive turnout operation. Republicans exploited every opening that Democrats gave them—and there were plenty.

The administration of incumbent Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue—though not Ms. Perdue personally—was marked by scandals. The John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank, uncovered numerous instances of misconduct and reported them in its publication, Carolina Journal. Gov. Perdue's job approval sank to 25%, making her the second-most unpopular governor in the country (behind Pat Quinn in Illinois). . . .

The linchpin of the Republican sweep was Mr. McCrory, the gubernatorial aspirant. Mayor of Charlotte from 1995-2009, he lost a close contest for governor in 2008 but ran a nearly flawless race this time, significantly outspending his opponent and imposing his issues as the focus of the campaign. His message was simple: "We must fix North Carolina's broken economy and broken state government, and with new leadership we can bring about a Carolina comeback."

Given his reputation as a moderate, Mr. McCrory made a point of broadening his support by appealing to conservatives. He backed a voter ID law. More important, he endorsed an amendment on the ballot in the May primary that established traditional marriage as "the only domestic legal union" valid in the state. "You don't desert things like that," says Jack Hawke, Mr. McCrory's chief strategist. The amendment passed, 61%-39%.

The marriage issue energized evangelicals and social conservatives. "It kept them involved for the entire campaign," says Mr. Rotterman, the consultant. Mr. McCrory also overwhelmingly won independents, belying the notion that wooing social conservatives alienates others, independents especially. . . .

Now Mr. McCrory, the first Republican governor in two decades, must revive the state's economy, which has the nation's fifth-worst unemployment rate, at 9.3%. He wants to use tax reform to cut business and individual income taxes (top rate 7.75%) and tap the state's oil and natural-gas resources, all while overhauling state government. If he succeeds, he'll build a durable Republican majority.

Tom Jensen, the director of Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling, says the Democratic Party in North Carolina is "broken" and leaderless. But former four-term Gov. Jim Hunt remains active and the party's longtime alliance with big business is weakened but not dead.

In Arkansas, by contrast, the Democratic Party barely exists. With the Clintons gone, it has no center, and Republicans have swept to power in only two years. . . .

The lesson from the two states where Republicans did the best in 2012 are hardly new ones. Party unity matters. There is no substitute for good candidates. Broad-gauge, inclusive conservative campaigns tend to prosper. Simple as that."

Summing Up

In North Carolina, it's all about the economy now.

Newly elected Governor McCrory has pledged to do what he can to fix the state's economy and overhaul state government at the same time.

If the state's 9.3% unemployment rate shows substantial improvement during his tenure and taxes are cut as well, North Carolina has a great chance to be one of the nation's economically successful state "laboratories."

Let's hope the feds and the rest of America are watching closely as Gov. McCrory seeks to engineer (1) an economic revival and (2) resurgence of good government at the same time.

Both are necessary and thoroughly interconnected throughout this great country of ours.

Thanks. Bob.

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