North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is among the top 10 Democrats named in The Washington Post’s quarterly Democratic presidential candidate ranking for 2024 released on April 16. Cooper came in at 6th place, down from 5th in its last ranking. The paper calls him “one leading contender you hear the least about” and says he is a “Biden-style candidate who checks lots of boxes.”
“I suspect there will be people reading The Washington Post saying, ‘Who the heck is this guy?’” said Andy Taylor, Professor of Political Science at N.C. State University. “These are people who follow politics pretty closely. That might be some of Cooper’s appeal. A vanilla candidate in a highly polarized political world.”
“He’s a Democratic governor from a purple state and has governed in a divided state—that is a winning formula when making a short-list of potential candidates,” said Chris Cooper, a professor of Political Science & Public Affairs at Western Carolina University. “At the same time, he has very little name recognition nationally. As opposed to Democratic governors in similar situations like Andy Beshear, he has not drawn much national media attention.”
He said he would be surprised if Gov. Cooper ran for president, even more surprised if he won.
The state has had its share of great news in recent years as a Republican-led legislature prioritized tax cuts and conservative economic policy, even if Cooper fought them. N.C. attracts new businesses, including Apple, Google, and Toyota, bringing billions of dollars of capital investment, a low unemployment rate of 3.5%, and is ranked the fourth most popular state in the United States to move to in 2021.
North Carolina’s $25.9 billion budget plan for 2021-22 lowers the personal income tax rate from 5.25% to 3.99% over six years and phases out the corporate income tax beginning in 2025 and ending in 2031. The fiscal 2022-23 portion of the biennial plan projects the state’s rainy-day fund will grow to $4.25 billion by the end of the biennium, all great points that continue to project a favorable future for the state. Despite Cooper’s signing of the budget into law last November, the first one that he signed since taking office in 2017, he has legislators in the General Assembly to thank for working together to bring the state to a stable and favorable place.
“A Roy Cooper presidency, if it’s anything like his tenure as governor, would be one beholden to left-wing special interests,” said Brian Balfour, Senior Vice President of Research, John Locke Foundation. “While opposing tax cuts for workers, Cooper has doled out hundreds of millions worth of tax breaks to favored corporations. He has opposed school choice to appease the teachers’ association, promoted expensive and inefficient wind and solar energy to shore up his wealthy green energy donors, and pushed to expand Medicaid to appeal to leftist advocacy groups.”
Taylor said it is quite unusual to be talking about new candidates from the same party as the current the White House administration, still in it is first term. The fact that journalists are speculating about who the next presidential candidate will be, does speak to Biden’s age and health and his past comments past about being a one-term president. Recent reports however show that Biden said he will likely seek another term.
Lauren Horsch, deputy chief of staff for communications for Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said while Berger’s office won’t comment on a random ranking of potential presidential nominees, she did say, “It’s telling that the D.C. media are already speculating as to who could run for president in 2024, despite President Biden making it known that he’s going to run for re-election. The American people are fed up with President Biden’s policies that have resulted in a 40-year high inflation rate and the Democrats are looking for a safety valve.”
Taylor said while Cooper is competent and kind of fits the centrist establishment — big state, purple state, term-limited role, some favorable press across the country, and known among his peers for heading up the Democratic Governors Association — he most likely would not be the candidate of choice if Biden decided not to run.
“With the energy that is created by identity politics in that party, they might say we need a minority candidate, or a woman again or we need to go down to our progressive grassroots or something like that. Cooper would have little chance,” Taylor said.
The answer to the question will become much clearer after the elections in November.
“Then we’ll know a lot more about Biden’s plans and whether or not some of these people will be really serious candidates for nomination,” Taylor said.