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Clicking back and forth between Fox News and CNN, watching the Democratic Convention, was like watching two different conventions. From two different worlds.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz was roundly booed by Bernie Sanders’ supporters. But, then, Michelle Obama righted the Democrats’ ship with her speech Monday night – and proof of her effectiveness is the non-existent coverage her speech received on Fox News.

Elizabeth Warren, full of economic populism aimed squarely at billionaire Trump, followed Mrs. Obama and explained how Trump has  made millions ripping off everyone from plumbers to construction workers.

Bernie Sanders wrapped up the night with more anti-Wall Street populism and his own ringing endorsement of Hillary.

By midnight the Democrats were all singing out of the same hymnal: Hillary’s a mother, there’s a lot to be said for having a mother’s perspective in the Oval Office, the rich are getting richer while the rest of us are slipping downhill, and Donald Trump’s a wicked, angry billionaire, who’s no role model for children.

Led by Warren and Sanders, Democrats spoke out as the champion of ‘us.’ The collective ‘us.’ And, in their eyes, the machinery for the collective ‘us’ to implement our will is government. The ‘we’ who have the votes will fix the woes we are suffering at the hands of Wall Street pirates through government.

The flaw in this case is government is also one of the most bungling institutions ever created by men. Even with the best of intentions, government often does more harm than good. And, beyond that, a populist crusade for ‘economic justice’ can always, in a heartbeat, turn into a crusade for ‘economic plunder.’

Republicans, traditionally, have shown little faith in the will of collective and virtually none at all in government. Their mission has been to protect the individual from government.

This division is a very old plumb line. And, when all is said and done, that cleavage may define this election.

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The bitterest fights are always inside the family. So it is with the Republican and Democratic conventions.

Donald Trump has Ted Cruz (and John Kasich and Jeb Bush and…). Hillary Clinton has Bernie Sanders.

At least Sanders endorsed Clinton. But not all his supporters buy it.

There is a certain self-righteousness among some Sanders supporters that is off-putting. There’s also a certain sense of entitlement among some Clinton supporters that is equally off-putting. (I’ll hear from both sides now.)

The burden is on Clinton & Co. to reach out. After all, they won.

The Sanders people did win concessions on the platform. But who cares about the platform?

After Sanders endorsed Clinton a couple of weeks back, the party seemed to be coming together. Then came the leak of thousands of dumb, dumb, dumb DNC emails.

Those damn emails again! At this point, Clinton wants to get a time machine, go back and un-invent email. That damn Al Gore!

A Russian hack sounds far-fetched. But when a serious person like Congressman David Price takes a Putin plot seriously, attention should be paid. Republicans believe Russians hacked Hillary’s State Department emails. Why not these too?

From the beginning, Clinton’s campaign missed what fueled Sanders’ challenge: the anger many Democrats, and many Americans, feel toward a pay-for-play political system. It’s the Clintons’ fault that they became the poster pair for that system.

Sanders’ supporters are unlikely to vote for Trump. But they might go for Gary Johnson (legalize marijuana!), write in Bernie or sit home and, like Ralph Nader voters in 2000, open the White House door for Trump.

There are plenty of Never-Trump Republicans who could do the same.

Our nation rests in the hands of these disaffected Democrats and reluctant Republicans.


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Last Friday, as the smoke cleared after the Republican Convention, with a Mongol Horde of Democratic Super PACs after his hide Donald Trump attacked Ted Cruz instead of Hillary.

Next Wiki-leaks dumped nineteen thousand hacked Democrat Party emails onto the Internet and the Democrats’ dream of a happy convention went up in smoke.

Sunday Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic Party Chairman, announced she would resign after the convention – not before.

And, also on Sunday, Hillary’s campaign manager announced on national television the Russians were behind the Wiki-leaks because Vladimir Putin supports Donald Trump because Trump might not back NATO allies Russia attacks.

Roger Ailes may have been deposed by a bevy of blondes at Fox News but the twenty-four hour news cycle roles on with sound and fury – every fifteen minutes reporters need a new crisis to write about on the Internet, point to, and howl, The world’s on fire. And, if one’s not available, they’ll pour gasoline on whatever’s at hand.

Did Hillary’s campaign manager offer one shred of proof on ABC This Week that Vladimir Putin supports Donald Trump? No. Does Wasserman Schultz’ resignation spell doom for Hillary? Again, No – unfortunately. Is Trump’s umpteenth attack on Ted Cruz a profound development in the Presidential election? No.

But the news monster requires feeding every quarter hour – so we have three new earthshaking crisis on our hands.

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Hillary Clinton’s choice of Tim Kaine is about more than winning the battleground state (excuse me, Commonwealth) of Virginia. It’s about a seismic shift in the Presidential chessboard this year – and for years to come.

The Clinton campaign calculates that she must win Virginia, North Carolina and Florida (57 total electoral votes) if Donald Trump’s anti-trade rhetoric makes the race close in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin (64 total electoral votes).

We may be seeing a fundamental, long-term change in both parties’ electoral strategies – a change that reflects long-running population and economic changes.

The decline in blue-collar manufacturing has hit the Midwest Rust Belt hard. Trump thinks he can win there by abandoning the GOP’s decades-old support for free trade. He has moved the Republican base from the executive suites to the factory floor (or unemployment line).

At the same time, politics is dramatically shifting in Virginia, North Carolina and, more slowly, Georgia. Democrats are gaining as the minority voting population grows and the ranks of college-educated whites in urban areas grow.

Kaine isn’t just a Southerner. He’s safe, smart and solid. He speaks Spanish, which is why he and Clinton campaigned in Florida Saturday. And, as a Virginia Republican friend said, “The thing I hate most about Tim Kaine is that he’s so likeable.”

Some optimistic (or delusional) Democrats even dream of one day winning Georgia and Texas (54 total electoral votes).

So North Carolina is a battleground again. The Clinton campaign is flooding the state with field operatives and ad dollars. Clinton and Trump were both here, again, Monday.

Get used to it for the next 15 weeks.

More than that, get used to being at ground zero in a new Presidential battlefield for many elections to come.

As we did during the Republican Convention, Carter and I are contributing to The Charlotte Observer’s Democratic Convention coverage this week.

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It was a rough week. But it’s over. No more opening the morning newspapers to read stories about plagiarism. Or about booing Ted. Or about hour-long political speeches in prime time by Donald Trump.  

Orators aren’t born – they learn their art the old-fashioned way. One hard step at a time. And great orators also have a bit of poetry in their souls: ‘Blood, toil, tears and sweat.’ ‘The better angels of our nature.’ ‘They slipped the surly bands of earth to touch the face of God.’

Speaking contemporaneously Donald Trump is riveting. He’s vivid. And entertaining – even when he’s like a buzzsaw. But he’s never claimed the mantle of orator and listening to his speech Thursday night was a bit like being hollered at for an hour.

But that’s all in the past now. Things are looking up. There’s a cause for hope. Because the Democrats are coming to town with their convention and the one thing the Democrats have proven over and over, down through the years, is they have one infallible gift: No matter how badly Republicans screw up the Democrats can find a way to do worse.

So I’m looking forward to Bernie and Elizabeth and Debbie and Barack and Harry and Nancy and Bill all marching onto the stage arm-in-arm, followed by Hillary on Thursday night.

By Friday things should be looking up. Because, after all, when it comes to orations Hillary’s no poet either.

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Hillary Clinton has the greatest gift in politics: a flawed, unpopular opponent. Still, she should use the Democratic convention to fix four big problems.

First, she’s a status quo candidate in a change year. She and Bill have been on the stage for 25 years. And she is something of a third Obama term.

The easiest solution is what George H.W. Bush did in 1998: make your opponent unelectable. That’ll work. Also, Clinton needs a gentle pivot from Obama. EG – Bush promised to be kinder and gentler than Reagan.

Second, she’s not a comfortable TV performer, and elections usually are won by the most comfortable TV performer. Hillary is the dutiful straight-A student to Bill’s BMOC and Obama’s cool cat. Her ads can fix this, in part. But she can help herself immensely if her acceptance speech communicates the warmth and sincerity people say she projects in person.

Third, she needs Bernie Sanders’ voters. Her campaign completely missed the fed-up-ness that Sanders captured. That’s ironic, because the Clintons came into politics in the ‘70s as the new generation challenging the old order. Now they are the old order.

Fourth, there’s the trust factor (see: email server). She can’t pull a Jimmy Carter (“I’ll never lie to you.”) She has to redefine trust as who do you trust in a crisis.

You might think it’s hard for a political animal like Clinton to change spots now. But conventions give that opening.

It’s like buying a car. Before you decide to buy a car, you don’t pay much attention to cars. When you’re ready to buy, you start looking hard at cars.

The American people are buying a new car for the next four years. And they’re looking hard at what’s on the lot.


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Carter and I talked with WUNC Radio’s Jeff Tiberii on “what North Carolinians should expect from presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the battleground state.”

You can listen here.


Posted in: General
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Today, some random notes from the GOP convention:

There’s a new Republican slogan. “Make America Hate Again.”

Republicans deeply admire Michelle Obama. When her lines are mouthed by a Slovenian swimsuit model.

It’s okay to plagiarize. Joe Biden had to drop out of the 1988 presidential race when he got caught plagiarizing a British politician. Time for a comeback, Joe!

It’s okay to be shrill. Hillary Clinton gets criticized for “shouting” and “being shrill.” Donald Trump’s acceptance speech was shouted and shrill. Oh right, he’s a man. That’s different.

LGBTQ. It’s a hell of a thing when it’s seen as a step forward that the Republican presidential nominee said LGBTQ people shouldn’t be killed. By Islamic radicals, anyway.

Good riddance, Ted Cruz. He is the most despicable person in Americans politics since Joe McCarthy. He even looks like McCarthy. Fondly do we hope and fervently do we pray that being booed off the stage by his fellow Republicans ends his presidential chances.

No more fact-checking. It’ll save time and space for fact-checkers just to issue an alert when Trump says something that IS true.


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We haven’t heard this said before – not during this convention. And not during Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s campaign against one another.   

We have heard, from Donald Trump: ‘I will make America great again.’ And ‘I will make great trade deals.’ And we’ve heard how ‘Donald Trump can do the impossible.’

We’ve heard platitudes, from Hillary: How she loves children. How she’s always loved children. And how she’s going to lift up everybody. And we’ve heard from Obama how Hillary has made history.

We’ve heard from Trump how a wall will save America. And we’ve heard from Hillary how Trump is for torture.

We’ve heard about Black Lives and Blue Lives and Crooked Hillary. We’ve heard about law and order and racism and we’ve heard, from Hillary, how Donald Trump sets a vile example for our children and mocks the handicapped.

We’ve heard the political howl and bragging and boasting go on and on. And we’ll hear more during the Democratic Convention next week.

But we haven’t heard, until now, anyone say, ‘I have faith that God can still heal our land.’

In his first speech as a candidate for Vice President, Mike Pence spoke with humility: ‘I never thought I’d be standing here.’ And added simply, I’m a Christian, a Conservative and a Republican – in that order.

And he spoke not of his strength but of his need: ‘I will pray daily for a wise and discerning heart’.  

Mike Pence looked at the anger, tumult and hollowness of American politics and stood up and spoke without fear of an old timeless faith. And true hope.


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North Carolina Republicans this year will get to experience what we Democrats went through in so many presidential elections: how to avoid going down with the Titanic.

Because the S.S. Trump is going down, and it will be hard to avoid getting sucked into the vortex.

The Republican convention is officially a disaster. It didn’t rescue Trump from the trouble he had spun for himself in the primaries. It just made a bad situation worse.

The party is badly split, with the spectacle of Ted Cruz being booed off the stage overshadowing Mike Pence’s speech.

The GOP all week has looked like a party under the control of people who are so angry they are nearly unhinged. Their only strategy is to stoke our fears and hatreds.

And Trump has branded himself as the greatest narcissist ever in a profession chock-full of champion narcissists.

Now Republican candidates in North Carolina – from Pat McCrory and Richard Burr down – will spend the campaign trying to avoid Trump AND avoid making Trump’s supporters mad.

It’s hard. I know; been there, done that. In 1984, when Jim Hunt ran against Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan got 62 percent of the vote in North Carolina. To beat Helms, we had to get one in five Reagan voters to split their tickets and vote for Hunt. We came close, but not close enough. Hunt got 48 percent.

It’s a lot harder to get people to split their tickets today. All politics isn’t local anymore. It’s national. How people vote for President pretty much predicts how they vote all down the ballot.

If Hillary wins North Carolina, even by the narrowest margin, McCrory and Burr will have a hard time surviving.

I tell my Republican friends: I feel your pain. But it’s nice to see the concrete shoes on your feet.


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Carter & Gary
Carter Wrenn
Gary Pearce
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
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