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OPINION: McCrory Is Favorite For Governor, But Has Vulnerabilities With Moderate Voters


Photo: Jordan Green for The Telegram.

By Tom Jensen, Public Policy Polling, Special To The Raleigh Telegram

RALEIGH – Pat McCrory launches his campaign for Governor today with a lead in the polls against all of his potential Democratic opponents. But he also has a major liability- his close ties to the unpopular Republican legislature and the cuts they’ve made to education.

McCrory has made a point in interviews over the last few days to express his opposition to Governor Perdue’s proposed sales tax increase for education. But polling Public Policy Polling conducted over the weekend found that voters actually support that proposal by a 47/43 margin and that the moderate voters whose support is so important in North Carolina elections actually favor it by a 60/24 spread.

A big part of McCrory’s strength is that he has an unusual level of popularity with Democrats and independents, but 37% of voters in those groups who have a favorable opinion of him support the sales tax increase.  His continued emphasis on the issue has real potential to cost him a lot of his crossover support.

A poll Public Policy Polling conducted last week for Progress North Carolina Action found 57% of voters were less likely to vote for McCrory knowing that he supported the unpopular state budget that resulted in teaching job cuts last year. And 54% were less likely to vote for him knowing that he supported major cuts to early childhood education programs. These are significant vulnerabilities for him moving forward.

A big part of McCrory’s impressive performance in 2008 was that he came across as a centrist Republican and that won him a lot of support from independents and some Democrats. Over the last three years though he’s tacked hard right. To me it looked like he was more worried about getting taken out on the right by a Tea Party challenger in the primary than he was about his prospects for defeating a perpetually unpopular Bev Perdue in the general election. He’s warded off any chance of a tough fight for the Republican contest. But in buddying himself up to a legislature with a 16% approval rating he’s created more potential trouble for himself in the fall. And those issues have been exacerbated by his not being able to run against Perdue anymore.

Make no mistake, McCrory is the favorite. He starts out with excellent favorability numbers at 45/31 and a lead over 13 different potential Democratic opponents. But he has made political miscalculations over the last three years that, when he is attacked for them, could cause his appeal to erode over the course of the next nine months. ::

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom Jensen works for the Public Policy Polling firm located in Raleigh.