Republican primaries are the best entertainment you can find this summer.
First Eric Cantor loses in a monumental upset. Then black Democrats save Thad Cochrane’s hide. Then two former Democrats running for Wake County DA fight over who’s the best Republican. And now Phil Berger Jr. loses big despite outspending his opponent big, plus getting help from every lobbyist, superPAC and special interest his father could line up.
You can almost feel the ripples of glee running through the Democratic Party, the Republican House leadership and the Governor’s Mansion.
How we love to see the mighty fall.
Carter knows far more about this race than I do, but I refuse to let ignorance stand in the way of analysis.
John Davis wrote that the winner, Mark Walker, “fanned the flames of resentment of super PAC attack ads run against him and two other Guilford County candidates during April and May, and tied Berger to Washington and Raleigh political insiders wielding outside money.”
So maybe it was a backlash against big outside money and negative attacks.
Or maybe it was just geography. As Davis noted, Guilford County, Walker’s home, has 43 percent of the district’s voters and Berger’s home of Rockingham, only 12 percent.
Or maybe it was resentment at Berger Sr. flaunting his power in the legislature – and fighting with a Republican Governor.
Or maybe nobody knew who Phil Berger Sr. is.
Or maybe you should never underestimate the power of a Baptist minister’s organization in a low-turnout primary.
Or maybe Allen Johnson at the Greensboro News & Record got it: “The Berger Jr. campaign may have turned off some voters by holding too firmly to Dad’s coattails and not running on his own merits. But I’m betting also that Berger Jr. failed to connect on personal level with voters. That they didn’t find him engaging or likable. He seemed in a hurry at times to get on with his anointment…. Berger (Sr.) is a master at wielding his influence through the sheer force of his grip. But that kind of politics will get you only so far. It helps if people like you, too.”
(By the way, great headline on Johnson’s piece: “The son doesn’t rise: Why did Berger Jr. lose?”)
In the end, I think my wise young friend, consultant Nation Hahn, nailed the essential lesson: “Seems like Berger Jr’s loss should cause Renee (Ellmers) some heartburn. Another establishment candidate going down. Walker was really a joke, but he was in the same vein as Brat in VA. Gadfly, who organized, and who tapped in to the incredible anger sweeping the country.”