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Sometimes it’s the little things that trip a fellow up.

Last year, Governor McCrory called a routine meeting so two of his supporters could sit down with state officials to discuss their contract with the Department of Prisons. But then right in the middle of the meeting one of the Governor’s supporters, Graeme Keith, Sr., let fly saying he’d made a lot of contributions and now it was time he got something in return.

Like having his contracts renewed.

When the story landed in the News and Observer the Governor said he never heard Keith say anything like that – and added that Secretary of Prison’s Frank Perry had told him he (McCrory) was having a ‘side conversation’ at the time.

After that, for weeks, the Governor’s press aides hammered away at the same point – they wrote the newspaper, “It was Perry who described the Governor as being distracted when Keith, Sr. talked about wanting something in return… You might want to reflect in your story that Secretary Perry confirmed he noted the Governor was in a side conversation…The Governor never directly said he was in a side conversation, that was attributed to Secretary Perry.”

Of course, the reporters beat a path straight to Perry’s door but he gave them the slip for two months – until a reporter caught up with him outside a hearing in the state legislature and asked, Did you tell the Governor he didn’t hear Graeme Keith because he was having a side conversation?

Perry said: “I don’t recall that.”

Which set the cat among the canaries.

But, as soon as the reporter’s story hit the Internet, Perry did an about face and this time he stated: “My recollection is exactly the same as the Governor’s.”

It’s a devilish mess.

The Governor said Perry told him.

Perry said he didn’t.

Perry said he did.

Frank Perry ought to clear the air: Now that he’s certain the Governor was having a side conversation, maybe he ought to say who the conversation was with.

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Republicans may nominate the most despicable and unacceptable imaginable candidate for President – a crude billionaire so loathsome he could deal the GOP its most crushing defeat since 1974 – and Democrats are going at each other’s throats over Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders?

Judging from the growing bitterness and snide sniping on social media, we may just pull defeat from the jaws of victory.

Time to get over it.

Hillary supporters, get over calling Sanders supporters naïve idealists.

Sandersnistas, get over calling Hillary supporters tools of Wall Street.

Out on the horizon, you can see a devastating storm headed straight for the Republicans. Let’s not steer our ship into the way.

Look to history. Look to the bitter LBJ-RFK-Humphrey-McCarthy split of 1968. That gave us Richard Nixon. Twice. Recession. Watergate. Six more years of Vietnam. Thousands more young men maimed and killed.

Keep your cool. Don’t blow this chance.


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For years I’ve thought of the people who vote in Republican Primaries as the salt of the earth – as old-fashioned, common sense patriots who might get bamboozled by a politician now and then but who in the end, blessed with a kind of inerrant compass, spot the varmints.

But when this year’s Republican Primaries rolled around and turned into a Twitter driven brawl it was like some essential DNA had mutated – and was replaced by a fever of internet driven hysteria that left Republican’s varmint spotting compass in tatters.

But then I read one number in a poll that said no matter how bleak politics is looking on the Republican side of the street it’s even worse over in the Democratic primary.

According to the poll 43% of the Democratic primary voters in Iowa are ‘socialists’ – not ‘might be socialist’ or ‘like socialists’ but describe themselves as ‘socialists.’

It was like a ray of hope.

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Back in 1979 when Ayatollah Khomeini took over our embassy in Tehran we “froze” $400 million in Iranian cash. The cash sat there, frozen, until last week when two things happened: Iran released four American hostages. And the President announced we were giving Iran back the $400 million plus $1.3 billion in interest.

The Republicans in Congress were outraged: Did the President, they demanded, pay Iran a $1.7 billion bribe?

The President’s aides said no while an Iranian General, Reza Naghdi, said yes.

So did the President pull off a diplomatic triumph thanks to his new policy toward Iran – or did he give us one more sign of weakness? We may not know until he writes his memoirs.

But one fact is clear: Ayatollah Khomeini must be smiling in his grave – thirty seven years ago he seized our embassy and imprisoned our diplomats and, last week, the President gave back every penny of his $400 million – plus interest.

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The Washington Republicans, trapped between a rock and a hard place, asked themselves, Who can we make the best deal with –Trump or Cruz?

And that was all it took.

The ole Master Dealmaker couldn’t resist.

Flinging all his anti-Washington rhetoric out the window he got up at a rally in Las Vegas and announced, “I can tell, they like me, those guys. And there’s nothing wrong with that, folks. We’ve got to make deals. We don’t want to sign executive orders. We want to make good deals.”

The Washington Establishment has been trying to stop Trump for months and they have, finally, found a way: By offering him a deal.

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As we get to the real voting, it gets real clear that Donald Trump’s candidacy comes down to the lowest common denominator of American politics: race.

Like any great scam artist, Trump has come up with a way of putting the best face on the ugliest impulses. He first seized the stage as an anti-Obama birther. Then he attacked Mexicans. Then Muslims. And the Chinese.

Under the guise of “not being politically correct,” he gives haters a socially acceptable way to hate. And gives men permission to be sexist again.

All that ugly energy makes Trump powerful enough to take on not only the entire Republican establishment, but also the former heavyweight champion of GOP politics: Fox News.

Add to that a gift for the pithy put-down that cuts through conventional politician-speak (“low-energy,” “nasty guy,” “blood coming out of her whatever,” “anchor baby”) and you have trouble on your hands.

Since World War II, Americans have figured out a way to stop McCarthy, Wallace, Duke and their ilk.

Now it’s our turn.


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Last night at the Republican debate all seven candidates might have taken aim at Donald Trump and blasted away and Trump’s decision not to attend might have backfired.

Instead, they stood up there in a row sounding (expect, perhaps, Chris Christie) like seven Washington politicians – attacking each other.

And handed Trump a gift.

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Governor McCrory’s Secretary of the Environment doesn’t particularly care for solar energy so he’s set out to scuttle it by declaring nuclear energy is clean energy, just like solar.

Think about that. It’s odd.

The Chief Environmental Officer for all of North Carolina thinks nuclear waste, which has to be buried under a mountain in Nevada for a thousand years and glows in the dark, is clean energy.

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You can count on two perennial stories at this stage in the election cycle: (1) stories about the latest polls and (2) denunciations of all the stories about the latest polls.

Frank Bruni wrote in The New York Times (“Our insane addiction to polls”), “I’d say that we’re in a period of polling bloat, but bloat is too wan a word. Where polling and the media’s attention to it are concerned, we’re gorging ourselves into a state of morbid obesity.”

He added, “We’re wallowing in polls even as they come to wildly different conclusions that should give us serious pause.”

Not so fast, my friend.

Yes, you can read about two polls that reach totally opposite conclusions. You could conclude that we should ignore all polls. But that would be as wrong-headed as believing every poll.

There are good polls, and there are bad polls. There are well-done polls you can trust, and there are poorly done polls you should ignore.

Just like restaurants. There are good restaurants and bad restaurants. The Angus Barn and Hardee’s are both restaurants. One serves great steaks, and the other serves Angus burgers.

It’s just like basketball teams, or cars or people. Or anything in life. There are good ones and there are bad ones.

You’ve got to know something about polling generally and specific polls to make judgments. Do they use live callers? Do they call cell phones? Do they call from a list of registered voters, or do they just talk to whoever answers?

It would help if you knew how much the poll cost, though you rarely will. Was it a cheap job, just to get a headline? Or was it a more expensive high-quality effort?

Of course, you rarely get to see the sequencing or exact wording of the questions, which can have a yuuuuuuge impact on the results.

So don’t believe every poll you see. But don’t go to the other extreme and say all polls are useless. There is nothing more illuminating – and, if you’re running a campaign, important – than a good poll.


Posted in: General
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From President to state legislature, every campaign is debating this question right now: When do we start? Specifically, when do we start attacking – or “contrasting with” – our opponent?

Eighty percent of campaigns will follow the counsel of the loudest and scaredest voice in the room, which is usually: Wait.

That voice says, “It’s too early. We don’t have enough money.” And this perennial folklore: “People make up their minds late.”

Well, they do if you don’t help them make up their minds early.

Case in point: Donald Trump’s opponents waited to attack him. They figured he’d either implode or walk away. Now he dominates the polls. So they’re attacking him. The result is that voters in Iowa saw 14 political ads during “Wheel of Fortune” last Saturday night.

No one can cut through that clutter.

The best way to win a race is to destroy – or at least badly damage – your opponent early.

That’s what Carter & Co. in the Jesse Helms campaign did to Jim Hunt in 1984. Needless to say, we didn’t wait at all in the 1992 and 1996 races for Governor.

Today, a lot of campaigns look like they’re waiting. They’re ceding the initiative to their opponent. They’re passive, not aggressive.

If you’re in a campaign strategy session and somebody asks, “When do we start?” you say, “Yesterday.”


Posted in: General
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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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