RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – While this year’s election happened just a few weeks ago, some people are already looking ahead to who will run to lead North Carolina in 2024.

The biggest question mark? Gov. Roy Cooper (D) cannot run for a third term.

New polling released Monday by the left-leaning group Carolina Forward finds more Democrats than Republicans are unsure about who their party should nominate.

In the poll, 54 percent of Republicans said they would pick Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who said last year he’s “95 percent sure” he’s going to run for governor in 2024.

“He’s effectively been running for governor for over a year. He’s been very clear about telegraphing his intention to run for governor,” Carolina Forward executive director Blair Reeves said. “We didn’t expect him to have as commanding a lead as we saw. If you tune out the Raleigh crowd and you listen to the Republican base in North Carolina, they love Mark Robinson. And, absolutely nothing is going to dislodge that.”

In the poll, 20 percent of Republicans said they’d support Sen. Thom Tillis and four percent chose Treasurer Dale Folwell. The rest were unsure or said “someone else.”

“It’s hard to see how any Republican candidate surpasses Mark Robinson in the primary,” Reeves said. “You hear this from Republican county chairs all the time. He’s here. He’s there. He’s doing events basically every week, every weekend. He’s everywhere. He’s been, to his credit, working really hard pounding the pavement to make his face seen in a lot of these counties. You really haven’t seen any of the Democratic candidates doing that.”

While he hasn’t officially declared, Atty. Gen. Josh Stein (D) also has been expected to run for governor.

In the Carolina Forward poll, 22 percent of Democrats said they’d choose him compared to 18 percent for former Health and Human Services Sec. Dr. Mandy Cohen and 12 percent for state Sen. Jeff Jackson who’s from Charlotte and just won a seat in Congress. Almost half said they’re unsure or would pick “someone else.”

Cohen has not publicly expressed interest in running for governor. When asked about that in an email Monday, she simply wrote, “Thanks for sharing this poll – I had not seen it.”

Reeves said, “We threw her in there because she’s one of the more prominent Democrats in the state. And, there just aren’t that many prominent Democrats in the state after Roy Cooper. So, that’s part of the issue for them.”

Though the red wave that had been predicted in this year’s election did not materialize nationally, Republicans in North Carolina swept all the statewide races.

“Democrats have shown a persistent weakness in not only 2020 but also in 2022 in winning statewide races if your name isn’t Roy Cooper. And, that’s a real challenge. And, I think the Republicans rightfully see a real opportunity to take the governorship,” said Reeves. “Can Democrats figure out their turnout problem? If they can figure out their turnout problem, they’ll probably be very successful. In this election, Mecklenburg County, Guilford County, Cumberland County, a lot of really Democratic counties struggles with their voter turnout.”

The poll also showed in a hypothetical matchup between Stein and Robinson, 44 percent back Stein compared to 42 percent for Robinson and 14 percent who are unsure.

David McLennan, an expert on state politics at Meredith College, pointed out that early polling in a race like this is more about name recognition than anything else.

But, he said Robinson’s strong showing in the poll is indicative of where the party is and the difficult task ahead for anyone who may want to challenge him in the Republican primary.

“Mark Robinson having such a big lead among Republicans is not a surprise. He has the highest profile and highest position in the state for Republicans,” McLennan said. “More traditional Republicans who might not want Mark Robinson as governor in 2024 have a whole lot of work to do.”

McLennan said regardless of who ultimately runs, he expects yet another highly competitive race.

“The closeness of all elections and the fact that there is no Governor Cooper-like candidate on the ballot means we’re going to have a very expensive, hotly contested race,” he said. “Given that Gov. Cooper is one of the few southern Democratic governors, it’s going to be very important for Democrats and Republicans alike.”