Byron York

In addition to winning a big majority of whites, exit polls show McCrory won 13 percent of blacks -- nothing to jump up and down about, but a pretty good showing for today's GOP. He also won a solid 46 percent of Hispanics. And among all groups, he won big among the majority of North Carolinians who cited jobs and the economy as the state's most pressing issues.

McCrory also refused to be drawn into the squabbles that doomed some Republicans around the country, like controversies over off-the-wall statements about rape. And on another hot-button issue, when a panelist in a gubernatorial debate cited a recently passed bill to limit abortions and asked McCrory, "If you're elected governor, what further restrictions on abortion would you agree to sign?" McCrory's answer was, in its entirety: "None."

His bluntness and brevity temporarily stunned the moderators and audience, not to mention his opponent. But it was a sign McCrory intended to stay on message, and the message was focused on the pervasive economic insecurity felt by so many North Carolinians.

Now he has to produce. North Carolina has a dismal 9.2 percent unemployment rate -- fifth-worst in the nation. "People are hurting right now," McCrory says. "I'm seeing it. You go to some small towns, they are shut down. They're just boarded up. It's tragic."

In his economic plan, McCrory is emphasizing energy exploration, including offshore drilling. He's pushing regulatory changes. And he wants to reform the state's antiquated tax code, to stress taxes on consumption more than income.

He's also enthusiastic about transportation infrastructure. "Not enough Republicans talk about Eisenhower," McCrory says, citing that Republican president's highway-building program. To McCrory, it's an example of infrastructure spending that's most valuable not for the jobs created during construction, but for the private-sector economic growth it made possible.

Finally, as for the Hispanic outreach effort currently dominating discussions at the RNC, McCrory is all for it. But he reminds: "They want to hear about jobs and the economy, too."

In coming months, Republicans will talk a lot about how to appeal to a wider range of voters. They could learn from someone who's actually doing the job.

Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner