NC: Analysts vary on why the GOP won control of the General Assembly
Republicans scored a huge victory Tuesday in taking control of the General Assembly for the first time in over 100 years, but political analysts are divided about why it happened.
Michael Munger, a Duke University political scientist and the Libertarian candidate for governor in 2008, had predicted Democrats would hold both chambers in the legislature while taking a drubbing at the congressional level.
The opposite happened.
“I’d like to know how in the world I was that wrong,” said Munger.
Munger based his prediction on the premise that the Democratic majority was a conservative group rooted in power by money rather than ideology. The arrangement, he said, kept Democrats in control of the Senate for 112 years. He didn’t think a shift in the political winds in Washington would change that base.
“It was a very interesting day for political scientists,” Munger said of the Republican win only two years after North Carolina voted for Barack Obama for president. “In 2008 we make one huge change and now we’ve made another one. So what is it voters want?”
George Rabinowitz, a UNC political science professor, said it appears that North Carolina Republicans were swept into power by two factors. The first was a national swing back against Democratic gains in 2008. The second was a protest against corruption related to the federal probe of former Democratic Gov. Mike Easley.
“Easley kind of left badly and there was an identification of that at the state level,” he said. “I think [North Carolina] was part of the tide, but it had its own separate component. It’s not good when there’s a sense that things are a little corrupt because this is a pretty clean state.”
Chris Fitzsimon of NC Policy Watch wrote in his post-election column that the vote was a reflection of a frustrated electorate and while the margin was large, the switch was not unusual.
Fitzsimon : “The party out of power almost always does well in off-year elections, not this well, but they always make gains. This is not necessarily a referendum on President Obama or the Democratic Party. It’s largely an expression of anger and anxiety by people suffering in the economic that mess Obama inherited, frustrated that things haven’t improved faster.”
Some Democrats said spending on mailers by groups supported by the conservative benefactor Art Pope made the difference in key General Assembly districts. John Hood, of the conservative John Locke Foundation, a think tank largely supported by Pope, said that spending couldn’t explain such an historic swing.
Hood wrote in his post-election column on the foundation website:
“While the independent spending helped narrow the traditional Democratic edge in state campaign spending, by no means did Republicans achieve a financial advantage in 2010. They just weren’t outspent as much as usual.
“To suggest that this fact explains the results of the legislative races is to suggest that, in all the past cycles that Democrats won legislative majorities, they did so because of their overwhelming cash advantage – not because they best represented the sentiments of the North Carolina electorate in those years. Is that really the message Democrats want to be conveying?”
For whatever reason or reasons Republicans took over, the GOP won more than two years of control in the General Assembly Tuesday. Republicans will be able to redraw the electoral map for the next ten years when the General Assembly goes through the redistricting process next year. This election could shape the next several.
(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/somegeekintn)