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In North Carolina, ticket splitting remains a prevalent practice, with voters regularly splitting their tickets in statewide and national races. Despite having a Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, the state has also chosen Republican candidates in presidential contests. Political scientist Jason Matthew Roberts highlights the two countervailing political trends in the state, with educated voters in growing metropolitan areas leaning towards the Democratic Party, while rural voters have been increasingly supporting Republicans. The upcoming election will test the effectiveness of the state Democratic Party’s strategy to reach more rural voters.

The North Carolina Republican Party has undergone a rapid transformation, with MAGA Trump loyalists taking over and pushing out the old guard. Professor Michael Bitzer of Catawba College discussed the results of the state’s primary elections in 2022 and 2024, showing Trump’s significant influence. Trump-endorsed candidates have garnered large portions of the primary vote, indicating that the North Carolina Republican Party has become the MAGA/Trump Republican Party. Despite this shift, the dominance of the party remains uncertain.

The Trumpification of the North Carolina Republican Party is not synonymous with dominance in state elections. Bitzer compared the results of the 2004 election, where George W. Bush won by 12 points but Democratic Gov. Mike Easley also won re-election by the same margin, to the 2020 contest. The narrow spread between Trump’s win and Cooper’s win in 2020 illustrates that the state remains politically divided. The impact of Trump’s influence on the Republican Party is evident but does not guarantee victory.

With the upcoming gubernatorial and presidential contests in North Carolina, the state’s political landscape is poised for change. The popularity of Trump-endorsed candidates within the Republican Party and the efforts of the state Democratic Party to appeal to rural voters will shape the outcomes. The divide between urban, educated voters and rural voters aligning with opposing parties will be a key factor in the upcoming elections. North Carolina’s unique political dynamics, including ticket splitting and shifting voter trends, will continue to impact the state’s political future.

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