Dem governor’s chief: ‘Historically, we’re swimming up stream’

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper / Photo courtesy: Democratic Governors Association

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) acknowledged his party faces the pressures of incumbency amid soaring inflation and high gas prices, though he said the governor’s contests up for election in this year’s midterm election may prove a rare bright spot in a rough national political climate.

“Historically, we’re swimming up stream,” Cooper said during a live event with Pluribus News. “The president’s party, the first midterm is usually not good. You add to that, people are paying more at the gas pump or at the grocery store, they tend to blame the guy at the top, whether he or she is responsible or not.”

Cooper, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said his party’s candidates seeking the 36 gubernatorial contests up for grabs in next month’s elections are portraying themselves as defenders of constitutional rights and best equipped to combat runaway inflation.

“Governors can distinguish themselves a bit, because we do things that affect people every single day — paving roads, investing in schools,” Cooper said. “If you can elect Democratic governors, then you can protect our democracy, protect our freedom, protect constitutional rights while also getting candidates who are not afraid to tackle inflation or costs to families.”

“We have the best answers to inflation and the economy, while Republicans like to point their finger and yell about the problem but don’t actually do anything,” he said.

Join Pluribus News for an Election Preview with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, co-chair of the Republican Governors Assocation, on Friday, Oct. 21, at 12:30 p.m. ET. Register here.

Cooper cited Republican efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, through state legislatures and the pressure exerted by former President Donald Trump on Republican governors in swing states. He pointed to the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the constitutional right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade, a theme common to Democratic campaign commercials across the country.

“Your zip code should not determine your constitutional rights, but that’s where we are right now,” Cooper said.

Watch North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) speak with Pluribus News’ Reid Wilson here:

Democrats are defending 16 governorships, including 13 incumbents. Races in six of those states appear highly competitive with less than three weeks to go. Polls show the Democratic governors of Kansas, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin in jeopardy, while the party is on the brink of losing a governorship in Oregon that has been in Democratic hands since 1987.

“Democrat governors struggling in their re-election bids should look in the mirror before they pass blame,” said Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association. “Many have vociferously backed [President] Biden and the policies that have resulted in record inflation and skyrocketing crime. Those factors will ultimately lead to their demise.”

But there are bright spots amid the gloom. Democrats are all but certain to pick up governorships in Maryland and Massachusetts, where popular Republican governors are leaving office. Democrats are also vying for governorships in Arizona and Georgia, while Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) suddenly appears to be trailing his challenger.

Cooper acknowledged his party’s internal polling is showing a late shift toward Republicans, echoed in state and national polling that has showed Republicans reclaiming the advantage or narrowing gaps in key races. Democrats “have been concerned about” the movement, Cooper said, though he said he had expected those numbers to tighten.

That, along with the national midterm environment that has the party clinging to its narrow U.S. House and Senate majorities, is why they “aren’t taking anything for granted,” even in a state such as Michigan, where public polling shows Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) well-positioned for re-election.

“The national environment does affect governor races no question, but less than congressional and U.S. Senate races, because these incumbent Democratic governors have had a chance to show people what they can do,” Cooper said.