What kind of electorate do you need to get Donald Trump to a 49–42 advantage over Joe Biden in North Carolina?

One that looks exactly like 2016, only slightly older and more conservative: 

–> 72 percent white, 20 percent black (in 2016, blacks accounted for 20.7 percent of voters)

–> 68 percent of voters are 45 and up, 50 percent are 55 and up (in 2016, voters 41 and up comprised 69 percent of the election.

–> Also, one that is very conservative (49 percent), answers landlines (65 percent), and refuses to admit voting for Hillary Clinton (42 percent of the sample said they did, compared to 46 percent in real life). 

But let’s not be poll truthers.

By their nature, surveys are likely to draw different kinds of respondents and different results. This one, commissioned by the right-wing Civitas Institute and conducted from April 5–7, is more Trump-friendly than others—e.g., it has 58 percent of likely voters approving the president’s coronavirus response, compared to 49 percent in a recent Public Policy Polling survey—but without more data, it’s impossible to know which one is an outlier, if the results are caused by Civitas’s assumptions about the electorate or likely voter screen, or simply if Trump’s standing has improved.

This is, after all, the first poll since October that has Trump ahead of Biden.  

In any event, it doesn’t really matter. For our purposes, let’s assume Trump is, in fact, up by seven points over Joe Biden, a dominating lead for a purplish state. What would that mean for the state’s other big races? 

For starters, you do not want to be Dan Forest. 

This is true for a lot of reasons, but also because the LG is looking at an ass-kicking come November. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed approve of Governor Cooper’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and 70 percent approve of the job he’s doing overall. In a head-to-head with his nincompoop challenger, Cooper is trouncing Forest 50–33. 

You also don’t want to be Senator Thom Tillis. 

Unlike Forest, Tillis has a small lead over his challenger, Cal Cunningham. But that’s where the good news ends. One, the lead is just four points, within the margin of error. Two, Tillis is a known quantity—a senator for six years, state House speaker before that—while Cunningham is largely unknown. And the best the incumbent can do is 38 percent. Worse, only 30 percent say they’ll definitely vote for him.

Spin all you want, but an incumbent under 40 percent against an unknown in a sample where Trump is cruising to victory? That’s the sort of number that gives campaign consultants headaches.  

Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at jbillman@indyweek.com. 

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