Early voting begins this week in North Carolina, which means if we’re going to do some handicapping, now is the time.
Even the most seasoned readers of the tea leaves are shrugging their shoulders at the Old North State, which falls into the must-win category for Donald Trump as the electoral map starts to settle. Trump’s message certainly has traction here — going by yard signs, bumper stickers and flags, anyway — and resonates even more soundly in the hinterlands of the state.
Smart money says the thoroughly disgusted voter will take the path of least resistance and just stay home.
But in light of recent events, specifically the ones that involve talk of grabbing, a new category of voter seems to be emerging alongside the suburban moms and “halfbacks” — which are retired Yankee snowbirds who didn’t make it all the way down to Florida — that we’ve been told will determine the winners in North Carolina.
Call them the “thoroughly disgusted”: voters who for whatever reason are unable to cast their lot with Hillary Clinton, but who have become so disillusioned with Trump and the party that produced him that they can’t bring themselves to endorse his campaign either.
Faced with a choice between a woman whom 41 percent of North Carolina Trump supporters regard, literally, as “the devil” according to an August PPP poll, and the man who says he gropes women, smart money says the thoroughly disgusted voter will take the path of least resistance and just stay home.
And because the thoroughly disgusted ranks are filled almost exclusively with Republican voters, their absence will be felt all throughout the undercard. That means Gov. Pat McCrory would likely be toast against challenger and current Attorney General Roy Cooper, who, ironically, sometimes reminds us of a piece of toast. It means Sen. Richard Burr, who Real Clear Politics put at +1.8 on Monday, could easily fall to Democrat challenger Deborah Ross. And it should trickle through the council of state races, none of which, according to the latest from PPP, are dominated by Republican candidates.
But even that poll dates back to September, and this election now has a point of demarcation: There are things that happened before we heard Trump say the P-word, and things that happened after.
And just as with that particular genital feature that Trump is so fond of describing, in the case of his bid for North Carolina, those votes aren’t going to grab themselves.