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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.


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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!”


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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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Long-time reader J. Fred doesn’t like the new-look N&O. “They can spin it all they want, but all I see is less news. It looks like a coloring book, not a newspaper.”

I didn’t know whether to be offended or complimented when he added, “Hell, you and Carter have more to read in one of your blogs than Page One does now.”

And he suspects something more sinister: “Will this mean another round of newsroom layoffs?”

What about the paper’s website, I asked. After all, while J. Fred likes his printed paper with his breakfast, he also likes to surf news sites. But he sniffed, “Well, they’ve succeeded in making their site look like everybody else’s.”

But, I told him, the editor said the new N&O is designed to “reflect the way readers like to get their news.”

He grunted. “If this is what we want, God help us.”


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Democrats are cheering and Republicans are chafing as Donald Trump hogs the spotlight. Presumably, at some point he will implode or get tired of the game. But how much damage will he do to the Republican brand by then? And suppose he keeps going through the debates, through the primaries and maybe even through November 2016 as an Independent?

This is a classic case of chickens coming home to roost. Whether Trump believes everything he says or not, and his history suggests it’s all an act to get the attention he craves as much as money, he’s saying what tugs at the heartstrings of very conservative Republicans.

As they used to say about Barry Goldwater: “If your heart, you know he’s right.” In their hearts, an apparently goodly number of Republicans like what Trump says about immigrants, the other Republican candidates and most any American less rich and successful than they are. His mean-spirited rants and insults make their Fox-hardened hearts go pitter-pat.

At bottom, there’s nothing to Donald Trump but greed and ego. But he has found an ugly bottom in the Republican Party psyche.


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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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