In March, TPM reported on several years of Facebook comments by North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson that spanned an impressive range of bigotry that targeted gay people, Black people, immigrants of many backgrounds, and Jews. At one point he even seemed to question the Holocaust.
And yet, Robinson remains the leading contender to become the Republican candidate for governor of his state.
Astoundingly, a new report in the conservative publication The Dispatch suggests that Robinson himself may believe the enormous pile of damning past comments that TPM and other news outlets have surfaced publicly is just the tip of an even more enormous iceberg of toxic material contained in Democrats’ opposition research file, which has yet to drop in full.
“I know there’s probably a lot of stuff out there swirling around … People are trying to put doubt in the air about our campaign, about me, but none of that stuff is true, I guarantee you,” Robinson said in a voicemail he left for a prospective Republican donor, according to The Dispatch. “We’re ready to take this challenge on. And I believe that we are the candidate.”
It’s super early. But the Dispatch report suggests that North Carolina Republicans think Robinson is virtually unbeatable:
“There’s a certain bit of desperation here that’s like: Well, why don’t we just try something new, and try something different?” said one senior adviser to a North Carolina state senator.
The dynamic among Republicans resembles last year’s Republican Senate primary in Georgia, when no GOP candidate was seen as a potential contender against former football star Herschel Walker for the nomination.
“Most of the legislators I’ve spoken to about this have essentially told me: ‘He’s gonna get the nomination. So what am I going to do, stand in the way?’” added the adviser, who said that concerns about Robinson’s general election viability have grown quieter.
It all sort of smacks of 2022, doesn’t it?
Herschel Walker in Georgia is a fine comparison. When it comes to far-right candidates who were just too weird for a swing-state electorate, 2022 gifted us plenty: Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, or nearly all of the statewide Republican candidates in Arizona and Michigan.
In 2024, Democrats face a terrible, terrible map. In the Senate, 23 seats currently held by Democrats are up for election, and only 11 held by Republicans are. Many of those Republicans are in safe, very red states; among the 23 Democratic senators, on the other hand, are some of the party’s most vulnerable. The picture is similar when it comes to governor races: all of the Republican-held governorships are safe seats, while three Democratic-held governorships are states in which Republicans stand a decent chance — including North Carolina.
Candidates like Robinson may play a small role (or, who knows, maybe a significant role!) in tempering Democrats’ grim outlook.