President Obama’s decision to tout the economic progress under his administration and lay out his economic agenda in North Carolina today might confuse some of his liberal supporters, many of whom seem convinced that right-wing extremists had run the state economy into the ground.
In 2012, North Carolina elected a Republican governor, Pat McCrory, for the first time in nearly three decades. The GOP also won full control of the state legislature for the first time since 1870, and proceeded to enact a comprehensive conservative reform agenda. Liberals proceeded to freak out.
The New York Times editorial board bemoaned “The Decline of North Carolina” and the “grotesque damage” inflicted by the GOP legislature. Bloomberg’s Al Hunt lamented the state’s “Perilous Lurch to the Right.” Left-wing activists held a series of “Moral Monday” protests outside the state capitol. Senator Kay Hagan (D., N.C.) seemed convinced that the backlash would help her win reelection in 2014.
And yet, North Carolina’s economy grew at a healthy rate of 1.76 percent last year, higher than the national average, a trend that experts expect will continue in 2014. Unemployment fell to 7.4 percent, the lowest rate since 2008, pushing North Carolina ten spots higher in the state rankings. Between July and November 2013, the unemployment rate dropped 1.5 percent, the largest decrease of any state during that period.
Meanwhile, Hagan’s support for Obamacare poses a serious threat to her reelection prospects, which explains why she has decided to remain in Washington rather than accompany Obama on his trip. The latest poll from Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling shows Hagan trailing all of her potential GOP opponents, and 49 percent of voters disapproving of her job performance.