It's being treated as almost inevitable that Pat McCrory will be the Republican nominee for Governor of North Carolina next year but there's one thing that could trip him up: a Tea Party challenger. 43% of Republican voters in the state say they'd like their nominee next year to be someone more conservative than McCrory to only 29% who say they'd firmly support him for the nomination. It would take a strong well funded opponent to do it but McCrory is definitely vulnerable to a challenge from the right.
That shouldn't come as any great surprise. McCrory earned less than 50% of the primary vote in 2008 against a weak field of opponents and the reason he didn't get a majority of the votes was concern that he was too liberal, particularly on issues like bringing light rail to Charlotte and building the Bobcats Arena without taxpayer approval. He's tried to build up his conservative credentials over the last couple years by appearing frequently at events for Americans for Prosperity and speaking out against the health care bill but there's still a sense among a lot of GOP voters that they could get someone else more in tune with them ideologically.
McCrory's popular at this point with Republican voters- 47% have a favorable opinion of him to 12% with an unfavorable one. But the 41% with no opinion of him leaves a lot of voters an opponent could define McCrory in a negative light with. And McCrory's numbers aren't nearly as strong as Lisa Murkowski's were in Alaska and Mike Castle's were in Delaware before they were defeated by further right primary challengers last year. It'll be interesting to see whether a serious one pops up or not.
Mike Huckabee continues to be the top choice of Republicans in North Carolina to be their Presidential candidate next year at 24%. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are tied for second at 18%, and Sarah Palin comes in fourth at 16%. Leading the second tier of candidates at 6% is Ron Paul, followed by Tim Pawlenty at 5%, Mitch Daniels at 2%, and the now departed from the race John Thune at 1%.
The North Carolina numbers show one of the major perils ahead for Sarah Palin if she ends up deciding to run. She has the highest favorability of the Republicans in the state at 69%, followed by Huckabee at 68%, Romney at 56%, and Gingrich at 55%. But she's fourth place for Presidential preference anyway, indicating a significant disconnect between her popularity and the willingness of the folks who like her to support for President. Getting voters to take that next step from liking her to thinking she's White House material is going to be a big challenge if she jumps in the race.
Full results here