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2020 Election: Fundraising, Polls, Rinse & Repeat

With the presidential nominating conventions all but washed out for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, political junkies have to settle for two things that are the bread and butter of the downtime in campaigns - fundraising totals and polls.

North Carolina could be THE battleground state of the 2020 election.  Not only will President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden fight for its crucial 13 electoral votes, Democratic hopes of retaking control of the U.S. Senate could lie with the party's nominee Cal Cunningham as he seeks to unseat one-term incumbent Republican Thom Tillis.  North Carolina is also home to one of the nation's most watched gubernatorial elections, as Democrat Roy Cooper aims for reelection against Republican Dan Forest.  Each of the state's Congressional seats is on the ballot too, as is every spot in the North Carolina General Assembly, council of state positions, and local offices.  

Political scientist Dr. Chris Cooper of Western Carolina University joined BPR's Matt Bush to make some sense of recent fundraising totals and polls.  They also discussed one particular issue that the candidates in North Carolina's 11th Congressional District are talking about that no other such district in the country might be discussing - reparations for Black Americans.


What do the fundraising totals show right now, and how much do they actually matter when it comes to whom people will vote for?  - "For the U.S. Senate we're really talking about big numbers for both candidates, which of course makes sense.  This is going to be one of the four Senate races that could determine (which party) ultimately controls the U.S. Senate.  With that said, Cal Cunningham outraised Thom Tillis by some pretty extraordinary amounts.  Kind of across the board, the trend this time is for Democrats to outraise Republicans.  As far as what degree it matters, it is important of course, but is sort of tails off in importance as you get more money.  So there's an amount you need to be competitive, but it is not always the candidate with the most money who wins.  A good example to our immediate south is Jaime Harrison, who is the Democrat running for the U.S. Senate in South Carolina against the Republican Lindsay Graham.  He's actually raised a good bit more than Cal Cunningham in North Carolina.  But of course we expect Cunningham to have a much better chance of winning his race."

Does anything stand out from where the money is coming from and whom is donating? - "We're seeing a lot of out of state money of course, and we're seeing a lot of these small donations that are funneled through each party's Super PAC's.  We're also seeing some individual donors that are driving a lot of this fundraising.  So, the New Yorker just had a big story about one particular donor Ronald Cameron, who runs a poultry company in Little Rock, Arkansas.  And he's been involved in North Carolina politics for years.  And in this year's election he's pretty active.  Here's a guy in Little Rock, Arkansas to legislative races including some in North Carolina."

Will Asheville city council's vote this month to begin the process for reparations for the city's Black community going to have any effect on the North Carolina 11th Congressional district election (Asheville is the biggest city in the district)? - "I don't think it's going to sway too many voters, but I think it could drive turnout in one direction or another.  I think it's also going to reinforce the division in the 11th and that will be accelerating, which is Asheville against the rest of the district.  About 18% of the registered voters in the 11th district have Asheville addresses.  35% are from Buncombe County.  So Asheville is incredibly important for the 11th, Buncombe County is of course incredibly important, but it is not the majority of the district.  I think what we'll see is reparations and the argument over reparations and the debate over reparations working differently in Buncombe County versus the rest of the district where it's likely to be less popular."

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.