A statewide poll from Elon University released Friday found North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper enjoys broad support among North Carolinians. In an online survey of 1,455 residents, 52 percent of respondents approve of the job Cooper is doing, while 31 percent disapprove. 

A recent piece in The Atlantic attempts to explain Cooper’s popularity.

The governor is 16–0 in primary and general elections over the past three and a half decades—in good years and bad years for Democrats, in the North Carolina of his youth and in the very different place his state has become. He moved up through state government as if he were climbing the corporate ladder: state general assemblyman, state senator, state-Senate majority leader, attorney general, and now governor. No governor in America has a winning streak like Cooper’s, and few current statewide officials in the country can match it. His career is defined by caution and a savvy sense of the political moment: For example, he twice turned down running for Congress in midterm years that turned out to be massacres for Democrats (once in 1994 and again in 2010).

“The mythology around Cooper [is] that he is some sort of political unicorn and genius, while discounting the impact of the circumstances,” Jim Blaine, a longtime aide in the state legislature and now a top Republican consultant in North Carolina, told me. “He is an astute, careful, and talented politician who has had the most valuable thing in politics, and that is absolutely impeccable timing.” (It’s worth noting that another Democrat, Cal Cunningham, may well have won the Senate race last year in North Carolina if he hadn’t been caught in a sexting scandal with a political consultant.)

Even Cooper told me he struggles to understand how, between the 2016 and 2020 campaigns, tens of thousands of people voted for him to be governor and for Donald Trump to be president. “People do tell me that they don’t agree with me quite a bit of [the time], but they think I’m coming at it in the right way,” Cooper said. “They believe I’m doing what I think is right, and that matters to them.” —Edward-Isaac Dovere, The Atlantic

Indeed, if the Elon poll results are anything to go by, Cooper is more popular in the state than both Donald Trump and President Joe Biden. For Biden, 49 percent of respondents approve of the job he’s doing, while 33 percent disapprove.

North Carolinians are near evenly split on the question of whether Donald Trump should be impeached but the majority of respondents hold him responsible for the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol last month.

According to the survey, 47 percent of North Carolinians support the second impeachment of Donald Trump, while 43 percent oppose it, and 10 percent say they don’t know.

Trump’s impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate begins on Monday.

As to how responsible respondents hold Trump for the violence at the Capitol on January 6, 42 percent say the president was very responsible, 17 percent say somewhat responsible, 14 percent say a little responsible, and 28 percent say Trump was not responsible at all. Most respondents–51 percent–support barring Trump from running for president again in 2024 if the U.S. Senate convicts him on charges of inciting an insurrection, while 40 percent oppose it.

While there’s been chatter about Roy Cooper potentially joining a 2024 ticket with Kamala Harris if Biden decides not to run again, it’s not clear, according to The Atlantic piece, whether Cooper’s success could be replicated nationally, or if Democrats could use his toned-down messaging and fundraising prowess as a model to win governorships in other red and purple states. 

Polling data, the piece notes, tends to reflect higher approval for Cooper than his share of vote counts would indicate–though he beat ex-lieutenant governor Dan Forest with 51.5 percent of the vote to Forest’s 47.1 percent, he squeaked past former governor Pat McCrory in 2016 by a margin of just .2 percent, or some 10,000 ballots.

Regardless of any ambitions for national office the governor may or may not harbor, Cooper, who was elected to chair the Democratic Governor’s Association in 2022, clearly understands the importance to Democrats of winning governors’ offices in 2022 and 2024. Per The Atlantic:

Even with Washington under full Democratic control, winning more governor’s races is crucial for the party, Cooper said. “When you consider the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court now and how a number of federal protections in women’s health, in voter rights, in environmental protection … now may fall on the states, the kind of governor that each state elects can really dictate basic freedoms and liberties for people like we’ve never seen before,” he told me. “This pandemic just put the importance of this office into focus for me.”

Follow Editor-in-Chief Jane Porter on Twitter or send an email to jporter@indyweek.com

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