More than 4 million votes will be cast in North Carolina’s statewide elections in 2020. But in the race for governor, U.S. Senate and for the state’s electoral votes, the margin of victory will likely be no more than 100,000.

That’s the prognostication of top GOP consultant Paul Shumaker, founder of Capitol Communications, Inc. He’s been the architect of successful runs by U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, and dozens of other Republican candidates. He spoke in Charlotte on Tuesday at a meeting of the Mecklenburg County Young Republicans.

[Read our guide to North Carolina political consultants]

Paul Shumaker

A 100,000-vote margin would represent an even further narrowing from the already-tight 2016 elections. Burr won re-election by 267,000 votes and President Donald Trump carried the state by about 173,000 votes. Gov. Roy Cooper won by just 10,000 votes.

That last result is more likely to become the norm.

“The state is only going to become more and more and more competitive,” Shumaker said.

The tightening of the vote comes as both Democrats and Republicans lose their “market share” of the state’s voting population. The North Carolina Democratic Party has been shrinking in raw numbers, and Republicans have grown slightly. But both pale in comparison to the growth in unaffiliated voters.

Unaffiliated voters have already become the second-largest registration group in North Carolina, surpassing Republicans. They’ll likely overtake Democrats to become the largest single group in 2022, and certainly no later than 2024, Shumaker said.

Those tight races will lead to a dramatic increase in spending. Tillis’s winning race in 2014 was the most expensive Senate race in history.

The 2020 campaign could set the mark again.

Cover photo of Thom Tillis casting his vote in 2014 via Facebook.


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