GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – We told you a couple of weeks ago that North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a Republican, and Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein were perhaps the best bets to be their parties’ nominees for governor in 2024.
Now Carolina Forward is out with a poll that supports our small survey, saying that Robinson, a native of Greensboro, is clearly the GOP’s choice and that Stein has the edge among more uncertain Democratic voters, some of whom had a surprise choice.
Carolina Forward is a left-leaning polling organization, and its responses are from only 606 registered voters, conducted in October, before last month’s election. The poll’s margin of error is 4% (which is about the norm), and it’s unclear how the names polled were chosen, whether suggested by the pollster or the respondent.
But Robinson, the highest-ranking Republican in state government, clearly was the choice, getting 54% of the total. U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, a former speaker of the state House, followed with 20%, and State Treasurer Dale Folwell of Winston-Salem, who has said he is considering a run, got 4%. There were 5% who chose someone else – former state Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro might be a candidate – and 17% remained unsure.
“If you tune out the Raleigh crowd and you listen to the Republican base in North Carolina, they love Mark Robinson,” Blair Reeves of Carolina Forward told WNCN-Ch. 17 in Raleigh. “And absolutely nothing is going to dislodge that.”
Stein has not announced his candidacy, but he has raised money in a bid to follow Gov. Roy Cooper’s path from the AG’s office to the governor’s mansion. Democrats, though, are much less convinced about their choice, with 39% choosing “unsure” as their option.
Stein drew the support of 22%, but the big surprise was that former state Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen ran a close second, at 18%.
Cohen is not a politician and has not disclosed publicly any interest in running, but she made her name by leading North Carolina through the COVID-19 pandemic. She resigned a year ago after being considered by President Joe Biden for his cabinet.
“We threw her in there because she’s one of the more prominent Democrats in the state,” Reeves told WNCN. “And, there just aren’t that many prominent Democrats in the state after Roy Cooper. So, that’s part of the issue for them.”
Also getting 12% among Dems was Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte), newly elected in the state’s new 14th Congressional District but a former state senator and briefly a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Robinson, a businessman from Greensboro who attended UNC Greensboro and emerged from obscurity after he addressed the Greensboro City Council in 2018 about gun rights, has spoken at many national rallies, including CPAC, and is known for being outspoken on people and issues. He has appeared often with former President Donald Trump and published his memoir this fall.
Robinson was mentioned first on every ballot of WGHP’s small and unscientific survey of election insiders. Tillis got a few mentions from the panel, but Folwell and Walker drew more votes.
Stein also was named on every survey, but he wasn’t unanimously first. Stein also served in the state Senate, and a campaign ad from 2020 has caused him legal issues.
Jackson was the third choice of this panel, but former NC Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, recently beaten by Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) for the Senate seat, drew support, too. Cohen was not suggested.
Interestingly, Carolina Forward also polled a head-to-head race of the frontrunners, showing Stein 2 percentage points ahead of Robinson (44% to 42%), with 14% unsure. Stein dominated among urban and suburban residents and women, and Robinson had the edge among independent voters (43-39). Stein got 6% support from registered Republicans, and Robinson drew 4% among Democrats.
“The closeness of all elections and the fact that there is no Governor Cooper-like candidate on the ballot means we’re going to have a very expensive, hotly contested race,” David McLennan of Meredith College told WNCN.
If you want to talk presidential election 2024, respondents are absolutely sure of their vote, equally supporting incumbent Biden and announced candidate Trump (44% each), with 11% saying “someone else.” Only 1% were unsure.
Trump beat Biden by about 74,000 votes (or 1.4 percentage points) in 2020. Biden, who just turned 80, has said he will announce next year whether he will seek a second term. Trump is the subject of numerous investigations, and various candidates in both parties are suggesting they are interested in the nomination.