Editorials

No, Donald Trump won’t win N.C.

A lot of campaign cameras are pointed at Donald Trump right now. Will it last?
A lot of campaign cameras are pointed at Donald Trump right now. Will it last? AP

Relax, North Carolina.

Donald Trump isn’t going to win the Republican primary here.

Yes, a Public Policy Polling survey this week has him leading among Republican primary voters in the state.

Yes, The Donald received the nod from 16 percent of those respondents, a full four points ahead of the rest of the field.

It’s a result that’s managed to horrify both Tar Heel Democrats and Tar Heel Republicans.

Democrats think this is a sign their state has fully transitioned into Mississippi.

Republicans are horrified because the longer you hear the words “Donald” and “Trump” and “Republican” spoken together, the better it is for Democrats.

But the PPP results aren’t really what they seem. They don’t show that Trump is a legitimate presidential frontrunner yet. They also don’t show that North Carolina has gone from purple back to red.

Let’s get analytical today, but let’s remember that today, we’re still in the pregame ceremonies part of the 2016 presidential election.

Candidates are still declaring. Debates are still being organized. It’s all about celebrity right now, and for tea party-type Republicans, Trump is the most recognizable embodiment of what they cherish. He calls undocumented immigrants rapists. He still wonders out loud where President Obama was born. He tells it like they think it is.

That’s why his favorability numbers among “very conservative” voters is at 66 percent, second only to former tea party darling Mike Huckabee.

But an interesting survey thing happened when PPP asked about general election matchups between Republicans and Hillary Clinton. Trump, who led all Republicans in a hypothetical primary, was at the bottom among Republicans when going head-to-head against the Democratic front-runner.

What happened? Some Republicans couldn’t bring themselves to pick Trump, even over the hated Hillary. It’s a good bet those Republicans aren’t going to sidle up to Trump later.

A caveat: We haven’t even gotten to the first critical part of the race, where people start learning enough about candidates to dislike them. But given that every other conservative did better against Clinton, it’s more likely that conservative voters would head to those candidates over Trump.

Caveat No. 2: Clinton had a mixed PPP showing overall against Republicans, beating Trump, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush but losing to Huckabee, Scott Walker and others. So the poll didn’t exactly signal a lowering of the tea party flag here.

But it did suggest that Trump is probably near his peak in North Carolina. And it did show that while we’re still somewhat conservative in the Tar Heel State, we’re not that conservative.

In fact, we’re likely headed toward another white-knuckled presidential race, just like the last two.

So relax. It’s going be a long ride. Except, probably, for The Donald.

Peter: pstonge@charlotteobserver.com

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