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Some pundits predicted Donald Trump’s hot-air balloon would crash after he criticized John McCain for crashing and being captured in Vietnam. But no. He rose even higher in some polls.

As Slim Pickens asked in Blazing Saddles, “What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?”

Some pollsters will tell you it’s nothing but a media mirage. Trump’s outrageousness keeps him on TV, which keeps his poll numbers high, which then keeps him on TV. Eventually, they say, the balloon will pop.

Some Republican analysts will tell you it’s much ado about nothing. The public polls, they say, are a misleading national sample of all Republican-leaning voters, not a scientific sample of the actual voters in Republican primary states.

Democrats will tell you it’s the Republican chickens coming home to roost, that Trump is just saying what’s in the heart of mean-spirited Republican Fox-watchers and that he’s the authentic voice of the angry, anti-intellectual, non-fact-based, immigrant-bashing soul of the GOP.

Other critics of the GOP will tell you it’s a shame, because the nutty things Trump says obscure the nutty things other Republicans say: Jeb Bush said we should phase out Medicare. Rick Perry said we need more guns in churches and movie theaters. Ted Cruz said his party’s Senate leader is a liar. Mike Huckabee said the Iran nuclear deal is like the Holocaust.

Poor Lindsay Graham had to set his cell phone on fire to get any media attention. And he got it only because Trump had given out his number.

The Onion got it right with its Trump satire: “Admit it, you people want to see how far this goes, don’t you?” One passage sums it up:

“My campaign’s just barely begun and I’ve already got you begging for more. Sure, you can say you oppose me or that you don’t even take me seriously. But let me ask you: How many articles have you read about Ted Cruz lately? How many news segments have you watched on Bobby Jindal? Or Rand Paul? But if those stories have the name ‘Donald Trump’ in them, well, look who suddenly can’t get enough.”

Why our fascination? Is it like watching NASCAR for the wrecks? Or are we simply sick and tired of an endless procession of cautious, boring, poll-tested, programmed politicians?

Maybe it’s just that Trump is real. Yes, a real asshole. But real.

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John McCain said Donald Trump’s supporters were ‘crazies;’ Lindsey Graham said Trump was a ‘jackass;’ Trump called Graham an ‘idiot’ and McCain a ‘dummy’ and said McCain ‘wasn’t a war hero.’

Then, a couple of days later, when the Last Socialist (Bernie Sanders) and Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley got up to speak at the National Netroots Convention protestors paraded down the aisle and up onto the stage chanting ‘Black Lives Matter’ and took over the forum.

Finding himself outmaneuvered by a protest leader intent on getting her hands on a microphone, O’Malley, spotting what he took to be an opportunity, chimed in chanting, “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter” – but pandering backfired. He got booed. And, later, apologized for his “insensitivity.”

No two elections are ever alike. Chemistry changes. Politics goes uphill. Or downhill. This election the politicians seem to have moved beyond the howl – to the flying insult.

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That was the enthusiastic assessment of one wise old Democrat after Hillary Clinton’s fundraiser in Raleigh last week. Another attendee, who never has stars in her eyes and has been skeptical, was won over by Clinton’s message and presence.

Which raises two questions: First, will she run better in North Carolina than Bill? Second, will she run hard in North Carolina at all?

Some Democrats here assume she will, since President Obama won the state in 2008 and barely lost in 2012. They look forward to what a presidential-year turnout might mean to candidates for Governor, Senator and the legislature.

But Clinton may or may not have the same pull on minority voters that Obama had. And Bill Clinton didn’t carry the state in either 1992 or 1996. He came close in ’92, but only because Ross Perot (the Donald Trump of his time) took votes away from George H.W. Bush.

In the end, Clinton’s decision about North Carolina will have little to do with history, sentiment or what NC Democrats want. Her campaign’s mantra, like all campaigns today, is “data-driven.” They’ll crunch the numbers in every potential target state, endlessly crunch the Electoral Vote math and then make a cold, hard decision about where to spend their time and money.

During her appearance here, Clinton reportedly told the young girls in the crowd to come to the front. She told them, “I hope you’ll have a chance to vote for a lot of female Presidents before you’re my age.” The question is whether their parents’ votes for President next year will matter, as they did in 2008 and 2012, or whether North Carolina will be back on the sidelines.


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Senator Tom Apodaca who’s gregarious and jovial and hard-nosed told the reporters, “The House went a little crazy with its budget” – then they asked about the Governor and he said, “The Governor doesn’t play much of a role in anything.”

He probably didn’t mean it unkindly – it probably read a lot meaner in black and white in the newspaper than the words sounded when they came out of his mouth but, either way, the quip’s likely to wind up in a Roy Cooper TV ad, landing the Governor in the same boat with Rodney ‘I don’t get no respect’ Dangerfield.

Which, if you’re in Pat McCrory’s shoes, is a conundrum.

Imagine the fate of a Democratic legislator who told a reporter that Jim Hunt was an irrelevant milquetoast? The poor Honorable would have gotten one of Hunt’s infamous 6am in the morning wakeup calls then been filleted by Hunt’s consigliores.

Pat McCrory’s cut from a different bolt of cloth. He’s not a tough-as-nails-if-you-want-to-fight-bring-it-on politician. He’s kind-hearted. And, at times, sentimental. You can see it when he’s on Facebook – the other day he was posting pictures, lamenting the passing of his ‘beloved friend Ernest’ the rescue mutt.

And sentiment’s a fine thing. It can be a virtue. But so is respect. And when you’re Governor it’s tough to get by on one without the other.

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It’s about the last thing President Obama needed: At the end of his Presidency he’s on a sentimental journey to Kenya to visit his father’s homeland and, when he arrives in Nairobi, he’s going to be greeted by 5,000 naked anti-gay Kenyan protestors.

Now there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything – including making a point. But, either way, in the age of cell phone cameras this trip may turn out to be the craziest Internet event of the year.

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With his polling numbers low, Governor McCrory needs to be way ahead in the upcoming fundraising numbers. Or he’ll be bleeding like an unlucky swimmer at Shark Week.

PPP’s recent poll “finds Pat McCrory hitting his lowest approval since he took office,” just 33 percent, with 48 percent disapproval. He’s trailing Roy Cooper 43-41.

Polls are one way to keep score in politics before Election Day. The other way is money. So we’ll be watching when the campaigns report next month on fundraising through July 31.

Normally, you expect an incumbent Governor to have a big lead in money. Not just a lead, but a big lead. If McCrory doesn’t – and if Cooper looks competitive – the sharks will be circling the Executive Mansion.


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Now his “friends” in the legislature have given him two more chances to prove that, as Senator Tom Apodaca said, “The governor doesn’t play much of a role in anything.”

Governor McCrory has to decide whether to veto the bill protecting Confederate statues and monuments. He hasn’t said, but he did take a forthright stand against vandalism. Given how he equivocated on Confederate license plates, there’s no telling how he’ll straddle this one.

He did promise to veto what he called the “Tax Increase, Redistribution and Spending Act.” Which led Senator Harry Brown to say, “I can’t figure out if Pat thinks he is the governor of Charlotte or the mayor of North Carolina.”

Ponder those two quotes:

“The governor doesn’t play much of a role in anything.”

“I can’t figure out if Pat thinks he is the governor of Charlotte or the mayor of North Carolina.”

They sound like a Roy Cooper ad in 2016.


Posted in: General
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John McCain said Donald Trump’s supporters are ‘crazy.’ Trump fired back McCain’s not a war hero. Lindsey Graham called Trump a ‘jackass.’ And Trump gave out Graham’s cell phone number on TV.

Who won?

This morning the Washington Post released a poll showing Trump surging into the lead in the Republican Presidential Primary – with 24% of the vote over Scott Walker’s 13% and Jeb Bush’s 12%.

Look around. America’s perfected a new way to pick the leader of the free world: A hollering contest.

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You’ve got to hand it to ‘em. You thought it was impossible. But the North Carolina legislature did it: They made South Carolina look progressive.

South Carolina took down the Confederate flag, while our legislature is making it impossible to take down Confederate statues and monuments.

Falling behind the rest of the South is par for this legislature’s course, of course. They chased off the film industry, they want to chase off the renewable-energy industry, they let other Southern states eat our lunch on industrial recruitment, and they got us to the bottom in teacher pay fast.

But their work is not yet done.

As the lost-causers say, “Fergit, hell!”


Posted in: General
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First Rob Christensen defended keeping Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. Then I suggested taking Andrew Jackson off the $20. Now a TAPster speaks up for Jackson.

Old Hickory, he said in a voicemail, was “a man of the people who saved America from a plutocracy.” Plus, when Jackson was President, “the common man could walk into the White House with mud on his boots.”

Jackson, the seventh President, was the first from a non-aristocratic background. These days, he has a bad reputation because of his cruelty to the Indians. But this Jackson fan brought me a copy of the book “Presidential Courage,” by Michael Beschloss, and urged me to read the section on Jackson’s battle with the Second Bank of the United States and its powerful president, Nicholas Biddle.

The passages echo today’s debates over Wall Street, the super-rich and their sway over our government and politics.

Beschloss writes, “The Bank was a federally chartered quasi-private corporation with influence so vast that Biddle’s whim could send the economy into a tailspin.” Biddle, a Philadelphia patrician, generally had his way with Congress, thanks to generous loans and gifts to congressmen and Senators.

Jackson hated banks and the “moneyed aristocracy” that he felt had too much power over farmers, mechanics and the common people.” He called it “a hydra-headed monster” that bribed editors and Congressmen “by the Dozzen” and corrupted the “morals of our people.”

From the day Jackson took office, he and Biddle were locked in a death match. He told his vice president, “The Bank, Mr. Van Buren, is trying to kill me. But I will kill it!”

Kill it, he did. That may not have been good economic policy. After all, we have the Federal Reserve Bank today (Ron Paul notwithstanding). But Jackson’s triumph established a principle for the new nation: The common people, not the aristocracy, rule.

Though some may doubt that today.


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Carter & Gary
Carter Wrenn
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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. 
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