Democrats ‘surprised’ themselves: Top Dem governor reflects on midterm successes, Trump’s 2024 chances

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper attributes Democrats’ midterms success to staying “laser-focused” on issues most important to voters, such as the economy, abortion and threats to democracy, but said he was most “surprised” by the wide margins of victory in some swing state elections.

Cooper, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), said that voters are more “multidimensional” than ever, which played into Democrats’ ability to pick up key independent voters in some key gubernatorial races, like Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to Cooper.

“They had a lot of things pulling at them. There’s no question that that families are hurting, were paying more for their groceries and more for their gas,” Cooper told Fox. “But they also had to look at women’s reproductive freedom. They also had to look at the extreme candidates that Republicans nominated across the country and whether they really wanted that. Did they really want an election denier who really preferred to put somebody into office who wasn’t actually elected by the people?”

Of the 36 gubernatorial races this year, Democrats were able to pick up three seats from Republican incumbents — Arizona, Maryland and Massachusetts — though the party lost their hold on Nevada with Joe Lombardo unseating Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak

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Gov. Roy Cooper has two years left in his second and final term as North Carolina governor. 

Gov. Roy Cooper has two years left in his second and final term as North Carolina governor.  (Fox News Digital)

With Republicans netting two losses in the gubernatorial elections, the map now breaks down to 24 Democrats and 26 Republicans in the country’s governor’s mansions. The DGA invested three times more into gubernatorial races than they did in the 2018 midterms, according to Cooper.  

On his party’s messaging on threats to democracy, Cooper thought this played into the voters’ political calculus heading into the polls.   

“I think our democracy was very much in danger and on the brink. And I do think that was part of the calculation for a lot of voters out there that, hey, you know, we want the vote to count,” Cooper said. 

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, in Greensboro, North Carolina. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Looking ahead, Cooper does not wish to see another presidential election with Donald Trump as the nominee, though he thinks it likely that former president could win the GOP nomination. The North Carolina governor worked with Trump on an opioid commission chaired by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

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Former President Trump speaks during an event at his Mar-a-Lago home on Nov. 15, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump announced that he was seeking another term in office and officially launched his 2024 presidential campaign.  

Former President Trump speaks during an event at his Mar-a-Lago home on Nov. 15, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump announced that he was seeking another term in office and officially launched his 2024 presidential campaign.   (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“It was clear to me from the beginning that that overall President Trump was not good for our country. It was all about him, not about the people,” said Cooper, reflecting on his time working with the former president. “I think it is the wrong choice for the people to elect President Trump. I do think, however, that he has a really good chance at winning the Republican nomination for president.” 

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Cooper, who has two years left in his term as governor, will not be seeking re-election in 2024 due to North Carolina term limits. Though he supports Biden’s re-election for president in 2024, he told Fox he does not know “what doors will be open” for him after the governor’s office. 

“I do believe that President Biden is going to run for re-election. I have talked with him about that, and I support him,” Cooper said.

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