Commentary

Christensen: So far, McCrory’s informal style is more mayor than governor

rchristensen@newsobserver.comJanuary 19, 2013 

In his first weeks as North Carolina governor, Pat McCrory’s style is coming into focus. What we have here is Da Mayor.

Think of him as a sort of Southern-fried Rudy Giuliani.

An extroverted, approachable figure, McCrory may strike some people as a mayor rather than a governor – popping up everywhere, slapping backs and wrapping his arms around shoulders.

McCrory has been setting an informal early tone to his administration. Governors traditionally wait for invitations to appear at the Legislative Building, but McCrory broke down the executive/legislative branch barrier and showed up at the building on the opening day of the legislative session.

Instead of dining in the upper-crust establishments, he has preferred more modest but venerable political hangouts such as The Mecca, an old-fashioned booth and stool restaurant circa 1930 that still has a picture of Franklin Roosevelt on the wall, and The Player’s Retreat, a beer and burger joint long favored by politicos and Wolfpackers since 1951.

These are mayor-kind of places where you can mix with real people – not just the expense-account crowd.

For the inauguration, McCrory dressed up for the various balls and parties. At a couple of events, McCrory beat out the drum line to Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

You know:

“Buddy, you’re a big boy, make a big noise,

“Playin’ in the street gonna be a big man some day...

“We will, we will rock you.”

Then there was the fire in the Administration Building, caused when some computer equipment overheated, forcing the building to be evacuated.

McCrory trotted the news media over to the fire site, so they could see the damage – and the problems with the building.

“Can you smell it?” he asked the reporters.

Next time, McCrory may show up with the firefighters.

He has hit the radio stations. Then there were was McCrory at the emergency command center for the snow storm.

This is what governors do. But so do mayors.

McCrory spent his first week as governor moving around the state, visiting Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro and New Bern. Not exactly new. Governors travel a lot. Former Gov. Jim Hunt was a blur. From the looks of things, I expect McCrory to stay on the move, especially when the legislature is not in town.

Right now, McCrory is the most popular politician in the state. His approval rating is 45 percent, and his disapproval rating is 19 percent, according to Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm based in Raleigh.

Only one of every four Democrats disapproves of McCrory. (About one quarter of Democrats approve, and half haven’t formed an opinion.)

Of course, the heavy lifting is all ahead of him – tax law changes, Medicaid, voter ID, you name it.

But right now, McCrory is handling the PR stuff, which should not be surprising.

His two runs for governor, hosting a TV show, and serving a record 14 years as mayor of Charlotte, a city of 751,087 – a city larger than Detroit, Boston, Baltimore or Washington, D.C. – has made him comfortable in the public eye.

During the campaign, he showed a bit of a thin skin. But it turned out to be such an easy election for McCrory, it was hardly an issue.

I know he just arrived in the governor’s office. But first impressions suggest that the Da Mayor, I mean the governor, is a natural-born politician who enjoys his job.

Christensen: 919-829-4532 or rchristensen@newsobserver.com

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