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Politics

WFAE Democratic, GOP Analysts Discuss Election Expectations

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Greg Collard
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WFAE

WFAE kicks off its Tuesday’s Election Night coverage with a one-hour call-in show. Our guests will include Catawba College political science professor Michael Bitzer and two other analysts: Michael Barnes, a former Democratic member of Charlotte City Council, where he served as mayor pro tem; and Dan Barry, the immediate past chairman of the Union County Republican Party. They spoke to WFAE "All Things Considered" host Gwendolyn Glenn about their expectations.

Gwendolyn Glenn: Well, this week, Joe Biden gained a lot of momentum with his big win in South Carolina over the weekend. What do you think that means for North Carolina? Let's start with you, Mike.

Michael Barnes: I think there's going to be some carryover into North Carolina and to the other Southern states that are participating in Super Tuesday. I think that people are looking for a moderate nominee throughout the South. And I think you'll see that reflected in the results tomorrow night.

Glenn: And Dan, what are your thoughts on that in terms of what it means for North Carolina?

Dan Barry: I think that what we've seen coming out of South Carolina is with Tom Steyer and Pete Buttigieg pulling out of the race, the party is continuing to coalesce around the more moderate section. I still believe that we've got two to the far left and two moderates. I still believe that the race will tighten in North Carolina. But I think Bernie Sanders wins North Carolina, but it will be very close. It'll be interesting to see for me from my perspective how the vise president performs in North Carolina and in Tennessee and moving throughout the rest of the Super Tuesday states.

Glenn: OK, well, let's let's switch to the U.S. Senate race on the Democratic side. The money seems to be behind Cal Cunningham. His opponent is state Sen. Erica Smith. What are you expecting in this race?

Barry: You know, I think the odds are on Cal Cunningham wins the primary for the Democrats. Clearly, (incumbent) Thom Tillis will win the Republican primary, setting up for a very, very expensive U.S. Senate race in North Carolina.

Barnes: I think Cunningham will win the primary. But the big issue will be seeing what impact the Republican PAC money has in terms of its efforts to push one of Cunningham's opponents. I think that ultimately he will win. But the issue is whether that margin shrinks or if we get just the surprise of all surprises and he loses to (Erica) Smith, who was being promoted by a Republican PAC.

Glenn: You mentioned PAC. Explain that for people who might not have heard about that.

Barnes: Sure. There's a political action committee that has been putting, I think, about $3 million behind radio and TV ads in support of Erica Smith. I think that the influx of that cash supporting her has probably tightened that race some. Again, I think he will win. I think Cunningham will win. But the question is whether that PAC money has any influence on the results.

Glenn: Well, let's jump back to U.S. Sen. Tom Tillis. Do you think he has a big fight ahead? Because some people are saying that he is very vulnerable.

Barry: I think that if we go back and look at the lead up to the primary where Garland Tucker was in and had spent, you know, a million, million and a half dollars in the run up to the primary and then backed out, I think he could say that we were going to have a much more competitive primary with Garland Tucker pulling back. I think, Sen. Tills has a clear pathway forward through this primary. What's interesting to me does to watch how the national Democratic Party got involved in this primary early on and kind of picked their guy to push them through. Well, that tells me as an outsider that the Democratic Senatorial Committee is really paying attention to this seat and believes that they've caught some internal data that thinks that Sen. Tillis is exposed on his flanks and that they can pick the seat up, (but) I see Tillis pushing through this.

Glenn: Your thoughts on Tillis. Do you think he's vulnerable?

Barnes: I think he is. He has not been very visible in the state, hasn't been very effective, according to a lot of people who I talked to and things I've observed. And the challenge for Thom Tillis and any other Republican on the ticket this year will be whether or not he or she is a Trump Republican. Tillis has been an establishment Republican until this Trump wave. And so now he has to bear hug Donald Trump in order to attempt to be an effective candidate in the race. And so you see Democrats look for moderate candidates like a Cal Cunningham who they think is more likely to challenge someone like Tillis, who is now becoming and has become a Trump Republican. If, in fact, though, Bernie Sanders wins North Carolina tomorrow, you will have a Democratic socialist at the top of the ticket in November. I think it could be disastrous for the party.

Glenn: Well, let's move on to the 9th Congressional District. That was very contentious last year. You had the voter fraud, the new election. Dan Bishop is now holding that seat. What do you expect or who do you expect the Democratic candidate to be?

Barnes: I have no idea who the Democrat will be. What I would say, though, is that because of the way the districts were redrawn, it will probably remain a red district, a Republican district.

Barry: Yeah, I agree. We have some mutual friends that are activists in the Democratic Party. And I was with one of them last week and we were just talking. He said, you know, if a Democratic can't hold the Republican percentage of the electoral turnout in Union County down below 60%, they have no prayer in the rest of the district. We don't see that happening. And as long as Union County's voting block tends to perform together, we see 62, 63% Republican cast ballots. That's Dan Bishop winning.

Glenn: What other races are you to watching that maybe you're not getting as much attention as the Senate race as the presidential race?

Barnes: So the lieutenant governor race on the Democratic – actually both sides – is going to be interesting to watch. I think I always watch just Council of State in general. I think that it's fascinating to see who's leading our state from one end to the other.

Barry: Your point about the Council of State is spot on. I'm paying a lot of attention to that. You're watching in the in the lieutenant governor's race just a free for all. I call it the family feud. You got six or eight fellows that are great guys kind of duking it out to the 11th hour.

Glenn: And the treasurer's race has a lot of candidates, correct?

Barnes: It does. On the Democratic side. And what's interesting is if a lot of people who don't have high name ID and almost all of these races, certainly on the Democratic side. And so who is able to succeed tomorrow night on the Democratic side in these races will be fascinating, taking on sometimes Republican incumbents. But it should provide a strong indication of what's going to happen, I think, in the fall.