Following his remarks to Saturday’s state Republican Party convention in Wilmington and to reporters afterward, it is impossible to say with certainty whether former Gov. Pat McCrory will run for his old job again in 2020.
But it seems quite clear McCrory hasn’t ruled it out, and he sure sounded a lot like a candidate.
He criticized Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s response to Hurricane Matthew and called for a new voter ID law, saying, “I know for a fact that we had a lot of non-citizens that were voting,” the News & Observer of Raleigh reported.
An audit by the State Board of Elections found only 41 such votes.
McCrory said he is doing some consulting work, playing a lot of golf and “reviewing the issues that I think we need to care about for the future of North Carolina and our nation. And there’s some things going on that concern me, because we left the state in really good shape.”
But, McCrory told reporters, “I’ll make a decision about running for elective office much further in the future.”
You can understand the temptation to seek a rematch with Cooper. The margin in November was very close and Cooper and McCrory felt his record in office didn’t get proper recognition during the campaign. Winning in 2020 would be redemption.
But McCrory, 60, said earlier this year he would have to talk things over with his wife before making a decision whether to mount what would be his fourth gubernatorial campaign in a row. (He lost to Democrat Bev Perdue in 2008 before winning in 2012.) Other factors would probably be McCrory’s assessment of the odds of winning, how other Republican candidates for the job are shaping up and how happy he is with life after moving out of the Executive Mansion.
Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is interested in a promotion when his eight years in his current job are over and is regarded by some as the presumptive nominee. Senate leader Phil Berger’s name usually comes up when potential GOP candidates for governor in 2020 are discussed, but it’s hard to say whether that is a reflection of any interest by Berger in the job or just the fact that he is the most powerful Republican in state government.
McCrory’s criticism of Cooper will sound jarring to some, coming so soon after the 2016 election. But, former North Carolina governors don’t necessarily fade away.
After being president of Duke University, among other things, Terry Sanford ran for and won a seat U.S. Senate, a common practice for former governors around the country.
Jim Hunt lost his Senate bid at the end of his first eight years as governor, but served eight more in the state’s top job after a hiatus.
Bob Scott’s post-gubernatorial career included heading the state community college system.
He remarked while he was in that job that he had a little problem adjusting to life as a former governor. He had gotten out of the habit of opening doors — State Troopers and almost anyone else who is around a governor do that for them — and consequently ran into a few once his retinue disappeared.
Just as it is too soon to say whether McCrory will run again in 2020, it is too soon to assess his chances for success. Losing in a year that was generally a good one for North Carolina Republicans is a stain on McCrory’s resume, and the very early indications are that the presidential race could be a significant drag on GOP candidates in 2020. Some voters might be tired of seeing McCrory’s name on the ballot.
However, while the social conservatism of Berger and Forest on social issues could be attractive to voters in a Republican primary, the same voters might also figure those stances would become liabilities in a general election. There is plenty of time for something to go wrong on Cooper’s watch and it is entirely possible that the national and state economies will take a dip sometime between now and Election Day 2020. Or, something could happen with political consequences no one anticipates.
It usually does.
Hayes keeps chairman’s job
Delegates to the GOP convention gave former Republican congressman Robin Hayes a full, two-year term as state party chairman. Hayes turned back a challenge from Jim Womack, a former Lee County commissioner, with 62 percent of the vote.
Hayes first took the party chair after party officials deposed Hasan Harnett last year after Harnett’s ability to run the party and actions in office were questioned. He was closer to tea party activists than the party establishment and the messy debate over whether he should stay or go exposed divisions between the two sides.
Womack ran as a more conservative champion of the party grass roots against “country club” Republicans. Hayes’ winning margin was fairly healthy, but the vote and the often harsh rhetoric that led up to it also suggest factions of the party still have plenty of differences.