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14
America’s Great Ebola Freakout has produced some good lines:
 
“I wasn’t afraid of Ebola here until McCrory’s press conference lineup today reminded me that he, Wos and Tata are the ones protecting us from it. God help us.”
 
“Sarah Palin demanded today that President Obama protect America and invade Ebola.”

 

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13
First ISIS. Then Ebola. Now men marring men and women marrying women. What’s next? “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!”?
 
More to the point, will video and big Page One pictures of newlywed men kissing each other sway this election?
 
Consider three things here.
 
First, yes, Amendment One passed with 60 percent of the vote. Two years ago. In a primary election with no big race. This is a general election with a big US Senate race and a lot of hot legislative races. Public opinion has moved fast since then, and same-sex marriages are happening all over the country.
 
Second, some number of the votes for Amendment One were African-American voters. They are more religious than most voters, they go to church more and their churches often are evangelical. Quite a few black preachers preached against same-sex marriage in 2010. It’s safe to say these voters will not be voting Republican in 2014.
 
Third, what’s the impact in precisely the urban areas with big college populations where sentiment runs strongest against the Republican legislature? Will these younger, college-educated voters stay home now, content that all is well? Or will this just galvanize an even bigger vote as they see that change is within their reach?
 
My guess is that same-sex marriage is at worst a wash for Democrats and very possibly a plus.

 

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10
As Halloween and early voting draw near, we political wizards examine entrails, cut up bats’ tails and consult the moon and stars to predict what will happen. (Translation: We trade rumors about polls, rumored polls and rumored rumors.)
 
Sometimes, you seek signs in what candidates do.
 
Take Thom Tillis. He increasingly looks like a losing quarterback hurling Hail Mary passes at the end of the game. Soon he’ll accuse Senator Hagan of sending federal stimulus dollars to Ebola-infected ISIS warriors so they can cross the Mexican border to get gay-marriage licenses in North Carolina. 
 
But some smart people look at real numbers. The smartest person when it comes to election numbers is Gerry Cohen, the retired General Assembly counsel. On his Facebook page, Cohen wrote:
 
“Wake County Board of Elections reports getting thousands of new voter registrations each day. Election Director says new registration is running at presidential election level and they are 10,000 forms behind. Wake has announced that completed registration forms can be dropped at any Wake County Public Library til 5 pm Friday. This folks clearly is a wave election in Wake. In fact, #‎WakeTidalWave.”
 
The numbers come from Colin Campbell’s N&O story about today being the last day of voter registration.

 

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08
The after-debate on who won is more interesting than the debates themselves.
 
You can rely on the partisans to declare victory. The media focuses on substance, issues and fact checks, none of which anybody is interested in. The stories are predictable: Candidates “clashed…traded jabs… repeated talking points…didn’t say anything new…etc.”
 
This year the popular term is “game-changer,” as in “this debate was no game-changer.”
 
Another popular trope is to say the moderator was the only winner, which is a three-fer: You avoid reaching a conclusion, you dismiss both candidates and you suck up to a big media personality.
 
The experts who get quoted have no real-world experience in campaigns and aren’t equipped to keep score. Anyway, it always takes several days for a consensus to set in on who won and who lost.
 
Take the Aiken-Ellmers and Hagan-Tillis debates. As an experiment, I watched the first and followed Twitter for the second.
 
A lot of people watched to see Clay Aiken; nobody cared about seeing Renee Ellmers. They just wanted to see if he was a joke or serious. Old hands I respect were impressed by him, but some people thought he was too caustic. A lot of people commented on his hair.
 
My take: He did well because he showed that he’s smart and serious. And the hair? Well, I haven’t seen a pompadour like that since Jim Hunt ran in 1976. As for Congresswoman Ellmers, she looked like a non-swimmer caught in a rip tide.
 
(Full disclosure: I worked for Aiken in the primary. But I made a commitment to help my friend Tom Bradshaw in his NC Senate race, and I no longer have the energy or bandwith to do more than one race.)
 
From Twitter, I take it that Hagan was crisper, stronger and more effective this time. Thom Tillis should fire his handlers for missing the most basic of all debate-prep questions: Name one issue where you differ with your party.
 
Oh well, there’s always tomorrow’s debate. Maybe we’ll have a meltdown. Or an explosion. Or at least a game-changer.

 

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07
Here’re the three tartest comments I heard about the Ellmers-Aiken debate.
 
“He has the silliest pompadour since Jim Hunt.”
 
“She was catty.”
 
“The person on stage most qualified to serve in Congress was David Crabtree.”

 

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07
Some North Carolina politicians sound today just like their predecessors in the 1950s, railing against the Supreme Court and rallying behind “state’s rights.”
 
Then it was racial discrimination. Today it’s same-sex marriage. Then – as today – the politicians were on the wrong side of history.
 
They say the state’s ban on gay marriages passed with 60 percent of the vote. Yes it did. In a primary two years ago. Want to try it again in a general election?
 
We may. We should see a sharp contrast tonight between Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan. If voters vote on this one issue – and some will – they’ll have a clear choice.
 
Yesterday, Tillis stood united with Senator Berger (for the first time in a while). They promised to resist the court ruling. Meanwhile, Governor McCrory say he would “respect” the decision, even though he didn’t agree with it. (Any bets on whether we will see any “recalculating” – as the GPS lady says – from the Gov?)
 
Last night, it was striking how gingerly both Renee Ellmers and Clay Aiken handled the issue. And Aiken reminded voters that Ellmers opposed the ban in 2012, as did he.
 
While tonight’s debate won’t provide nearly as entertaining overall as Aiken vs. Ellmers, this exchange could prove decisive November 4.

 

 

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07
Writing isn’t ditch-digging. But, take it from me, writing a book is hard work. So I admire people who do it. And I encourage you to check out…correct that: I strongly urge you to BUY and READ three new books by three great North Carolinians.
 
The books are Billy Bowater” by E.C. (Redge) Hanes, “The Little Book of Do” by Kel Landis III and “Entering North Carolina: Set Clock Back 100 Years” by Jim Leutze.
 
Two of the authors have book-signings this week at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books, the greatest bookstore in the world. Leutze is there Wednesday and Hanes, Thursday.
 
Hanes’ book is a fictionalized account of the 1984 Hunt-Helms campaign, focused on Helms’ war against what he claimed was pornographic art. The central figure is a Helms aide from a prominent North Carolina family who tries to find his moral bearings in the political swamp. Hanes himself is a member of a venerable Winston-Salem family who earned a Bronze Star in Vietnam, became a close friend of Maya Angelou and is one of the best conversationalists around.
 
Side note: Redge’s book is published by my favorite publisher in the world, John Blair in Winston-Salem.
 
When Kel Landis told me he was writing a book, I was skeptical. A lot of people say they’re writing a book. Few do it. Kel did. Appropriately, his is “The Little Book of Do.” Confession: I’m an addict of “self-help” books. Kel’s is better, sharper and more useful than any I’ve read. It benefits from his North Carolina roots and his career in banking and investing. It’s a fun, fast and fulfilling read.
 
Leutze’s book is, as Hodding Carter III, says, "a grim recital of the current reactionary takeover of state government and an urgent litany of specific steps to reverse course.” Leutze knows whereof he speaks; he’s a historian, former UNC Wilmington Chancellor and a one-time legislative candidate himself.
 
Turn off the TV, shut down your laptop and read all three. Trust me: You’ll be glad you did.

 

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06
Thom Tillis is getting the worst of both worlds. The Tea Party doesn’t think he’s one of them, and voters think he’s too close to the Tea Party.
 
The right-leaning Washington Times quoted one Wilkes County Tea Party leader, Joe Greene: “He’s an establishment Republican. That’s why I’m opposed to him. A lot of people feel the way I do and won’t vote for him. He’s got a lot of things about him that’s not grass roots.”
 
Greene, by the way, is part of a group called the “Conservative Patriots Of Wilkes Empowering the Republic” (CPOWER).
 
Tillis has more boardroom about him than grassroots. Unfortunately for him in the Senate race, he presided over a House that has led North Carolina in the Tea Party’s direction the last two years.
 
Which may be why he had Rand Paul here for him last week, though it’s not clear whether Rand is a Tea Party favorite, either.
 
An old political adage comes to mind here: If you’re still securing your base in October, you’re losing.

 

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03
When the media covers a scandal involving a politician, the coverage can be as big an issue as the politician. Take two stories this week – one national and one in-state.
 
The state Senate race in Fayetteville between incumbent Wesley Meredith and challenger Billy Richardson blew up over allegations that Meredith and his ex-wife fraudulently obtained government welfare benefits for their son 18 years ago.
 
The national story goes back 26 years to the sex scandal that sank Gary Hart’s presidential campaign.
 
The common thread is how the media did or didn’t cover the scandals – and what the media should and shouldn’t do.
 
Documents involving Meredith were “shopped around” – as several stories said – for a couple of weeks. But no newspaper or TV station bit. Then Richardson held a press conference, released the documents and called on Meredith to explain. Even then, at least one newspaper was still debating late in the day whether to run the story. It did.
 
The national story is over how in 1988 the Miami Herald staked out Hart’s townhouse in Washington after getting a tip that Hart was having a tryst with a young woman. Matt Bai wrote in The New York Times recently that the story marked the point in time when the mainstream political media went tabloid – and changed political coverage forever, for better or worse.
 
At Politico today, Tom Fiedler, the then-Herald reporter who confronted Hart and wrote the original story, defended it. At issue, Fiedler wrote, is “the existential question of the news media’s role in a presidential campaign. Simply put, what exactly does the public expect the news media to do? I think the voting public expects the news media to provide them with the factual information they need to cast an informed ballot.
 
“That factual information can mean different things for different voters. Some voters might want the media to report a candidate’s positions on the economy, abortion, civil rights, immigration, gun safety and so on. They care little about the candidate’s personal beliefs or behavior. But some voters—indeed, the great majority of voters—are more interested in who the candidate is. This is the much-discussed character issue. It goes to the essence of the candidate; it’s about authenticity, empathy, integrity, fairness and more. Issues change, and with them the candidate’s positions. But character doesn’t change, at least not much. For a journalist to withhold information that more fully reveals the character of a candidate would, in my opinion, be a sin of omission.”

Here, Senator Meredith has relied so far on the time-honored, knee-jerk political response – Richardson is smearing him, the allegations are beneath him and he doesn’t have to explain anything.
 
Wrong.
 
As Carter said in today’s Fayetteville Observer, "You can't shuffle it under the rug.”
 
And reporters and editors in North Carolina – no less than the national media – will have to decide whether to be the rug or the window. 

 

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02
How toxic is the Republican brand in Wake County? Just listen to Republican politicians.
 
Gary Pendleton (House 49) boasts of his “Democrat (sic) friends.” (Note: Democrats hate it when Republicans use “Democrat” as an adjective. It’s “Democratic.”)
 
Tom Murry (House 41) says he’s “independent” and “stood up to his own party.”
 
You have to listen to John Alexander’s (Senate 15) wife, because he stands mute in his TV ad. She says, “I’m a Democrat; he’s not.” (“Don’t even say that word!!”)
 
It appears that familiarity with the legislature has bred contempt.
 
Then there is this from Gerry Cohen (@gercohen on Twitter), the respected retired legislative counsel:
 
“Something is afoot in Wake County. Comparing the 3 month July through September period, 2010 saw 8,585 new voters, by party Democratic 33.9%, Republican 26.2%, Unaffiliated 38.8%, Libertarian 1.1%.
 
“2014 has seen 15,344 new voters (a 78% increase from 2010), by party Democratic 30.8%, Republican 18.0%, Unaffiliated 50.3%, Libertarian 0.9%. The 18% GOP number for 2014 resembles an Orange or Durham County statistic.
 
“In 2010, Blacks made up 19.3% of the new voters during that period, this year it is 25.0%.”

 

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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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