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01
Yes, there’s still five weeks to go. Yes, anything can happen. But the story of this race is likely to be that Thom Tillis lost it when he stayed Speaker in this year’s legislative session.
 
Apparently Tillis stayed on so he could raise money. But he didn’t, and he’s at a big financial disadvantage now. A lot of donors weren’t sure it was legal to give during the session.
 
The session spread more legislative poison on Tillis. The Republican War on Teachers is dragging down every one of their candidates, especially Tillis. And Senator Hagan was smart enough and aggressive enough to wrap it around his neck early.
 
Nobody believes there was a 7 percent pay raise, least of all teachers.
 
Give Hagan and her team credit. They raised a lot of money, and they painted Tillis into a corner he can’t seem to escape. And how they have hundreds of well-trained, well-organized field staffers working across the state.
 
Final lesson: Democrats can play the independent expenditure game just as well as Republicans. Republicans are learning that there are some rich – and angry – Democrats. 

 

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29
A party that denies citizens their constitutional right to vote is a party that deserves to lose. That’s the Republican Party today.
 
The party of Lincoln and TR has become the party of Block the Vote: Voter-suppression laws. Cutting back early voting. No same-day voter registration. Elections boards that twist the laws to suit partisan purposes. And now a deliberate effort to confuse voters about their registration.
 
Republicans claim they’re protecting us from voter fraud. But it looks like Republicans are the ones guilty of voter fraud.
 
That latest outrage comes from the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the Koch-funded ruling wing of the North Carolina Republican Party. The N&O reported: “Hundreds of North Carolinians - and one cat - have received incorrect voter registration information, according to the NC State Board of Elections.”
 
One of the most shameful chapters of North Carolina history was the Democratic Party’s violent suppression of black votes at the turn of the 20th Century. That still lives in infamy today. How long will the Republican Party carry this shame?

 

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26
Maybe Thom Tillis should give Civitas’ pollster math lessons.
 
Thursday morning, Civitas put out this release: “Democrat Tom Bradshaw leads Republican John Alexander by 16 percentage points in the NC Senate District 15 race, according to a new Civitas Flash Poll….” The poll, conducted last Monday and Tuesday, showed Bradshaw ahead 52-36 percent.
 
A few hours later, Civitas put out what it called “a corrected version of today’s flash poll on the candidates in NC Senate District 15.” It showed Bradshaw ahead by 10 points, 46-36.
 
I haven’t checked this morning. Maybe they have Tom behind by now.
 
One suspects the “correction” came after Civitas got an angry call from the Republican Senate campaign committee: Fix this – or else.
 
For the record, I’m working for Tom Bradshaw’s campaign. He’s a friend of 40-plus years and one of the finest people and leaders I’ve ever known.
 
Also for the record, we pay no attention to Civitas’ numbers. It’s probably a setup, anyway, so they can claim in a couple of weeks that Alexander “is closing the gap” or “has drawn dead even.”
 
There’s only one Civitas number I’m sure of: their credibility. It’s zero.

 

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25
Give Governor McCrory credit for proposing something big and bold, a $1 billion transportation bond issue. It sounds like a stimulus program, but that would be the kiss of death in the Republican legislature. He may find himself needing some Democratic allies.
 
He and Secretary Tata will have to answer a lot of questions: how to pay for it, can the state afford it and, of course, why these specific projects?
 
Like every Governor, McCrory promised to take politics out of transportation decisions. Here’s the definition of “politics”: a road somebody else wants. And the definition of “real need”: a road you want.
 
Speaking of needs, why was there no mention of I-95? It’s the most congested, dangerous major road in the state.
 
How can the state seriously pursue a large auto manufacturer without upgrading I-95? The first thing a big plant like that needs, especially if it’s near Rocky Mount, is access up and down the East Coast.
 
Let’s get on with it. Start your engines, warm up the road graders and load up the dump trucks.

 

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24
To Ronald Reagan, it was always “morning in America.” To John Hood, it has always been “midnight in North Carolina.”
 
There’s nothing special about North Carolina, Hood argues. Our “exceptionalism” is a myth.
 
Therein lies the difference between Reagan’s sunny conservatism of the 1980s and Hood’s dark depictions now. And the N&O’s Rob Christensen, whose Twitter handle is “@oldpolhack,” eviscerates Hood’s rewrite of history in his column today.
 
Christensen writes: “Hood seeks to frame the debate as between ‘constructive conservatives’ and ‘the left,’ as if we were living in California and not North Carolina. North Carolina ranked 45th in the country in state government per capita spending growth in the years between 2001-2011, according to a study released last year by the conservative Tax Foundation. Some left. North Carolina has been governed by moderates, both Democrats and Republicans, until the current experiment to make the Tar Heel State a national laboratory for libertarian conservatism. Hood finishes his column by saying, ‘When it comes to economic history, let’s stick to nonfiction.’ Hear, hear.”
 
Hear, hear indeed.
 
An interesting sidelight here is how Rob, now that he’s a twice-weekly columnist instead of a daily reporter/analyst, is becoming more comfortable moving beyond straight reporting and into deeper analysis. For decades, Rob carefully muted whatever political views he has. I have no idea what they are, and I pride myself on being able to sniff out people’s politics at a thousand paces.
 
How many times have Democratic operatives grumbled: “That damn Christensen. You can tell he’s a Republican.” Well, no, I couldn’t tell. But I could tell he was a damn good reporter.
 
And he’s becoming a damn keen commentator.

 

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24
The other day our top General went over to the Senate and said turning the Iraqi army into a real fighting force may not be possible ;--then he said no one knows who the ‘moderate’ Syrian Rebels will attack once they’re armed – they might attack ISIS or might attack Bashar Assad and, regardless of who they attack, arming just 5000 ‘moderate’ Syrians (as the President proposes) isn’t going to be nearly enough to whip anyone.
 
Meanwhile the same day, over in Iraq, the success of our bombing campaign was limited to blowing up a truck, an artillery piece, and two small boats on the Euphrates River.
 
This is an odd – but familiar – picture.
 
It’s beginning to look a lot like we may be getting into another ‘political’ war: If the President does nothing he gets pilloried but if he does what it takes to destroy ISIS (by putting boots on the ground) he gets run out of town on a rail – so he’s sailing down the middle ground uneasily doing what’s popular and avoiding what’s unpopular which may come back to haunt him – like it has other Presidents.

 

 

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23
My late father was a dyed-in-the-wool Franklin D. Roosevelt Democrat. He liked to tell this story about why.
 
Jim had a lot of reasons to admire Roosevelt: His family was hit hard by the Depression, and FDR gave them and families like them help and hope. He passed Social Security to keep older people out of poverty. He started the Manhattan Project, which led to Harry Truman dropping the bomb, which Jim always said saved his life, because otherwise he would have been in the invasion of Japan.
 
But it was more than that.
 
Jim was born in 1927. When he started first grade at Ahoskie, N.C., elementary school, there was a picture on the wall of the President. It was Franklin Roosevelt. The year Jim graduated from high school, there was still a picture on the wall of the President. It was still FDR.
 
When that picture stays on the wall through 12 years of school, through a Depression and a World War, I guess it stays with you.

 

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23

Two things happened the other day: One nasty. The other confounding.
 
First ISIS posted a video on the Internet telling President Obama (in no uncertain terms) to watch out – it is going to target every American soldier he sends to Iraq.
 
Second, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, our top General, added a new wrinkle to the meaning of the words ‘no boots on the ground’ – telling Congress it may just turn out, one of these days, that he might recommend American soldiers join Iraqi troops in “attacks.”  That wouldn’t, he added , mean GI’s would be in combat. Instead, they’d simply be “close combat advisors.”
 
Now think about that.
 
It’s a pretty bad thing to send a soldier into combat alongside a brigade of his buddies – who’ll stick with him through thick and thin.
 
But it’s a lot worse thing to send him into combat with a brigade of Iraqis – when that happens a ‘close combat advisor’ could wind up alone in a foxhole with no buddies in sight.

 

 

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22
Ken Burns’ remarkable series on the Roosevelts makes it clear that Franklin D. Roosevelt never would have passed the Gary Hart adultery test.
 
Would that have been good for America?
 
As Burns’ series was ending, The New York Times published a story by Matt Bai on the scandal that ended Hart’s 1988 presidential campaign – and how it “forever changed American politics.”
 
Surely, Hart was no FDR. But Hart offers this might-have-been: He might have beaten George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush might not have become President “and we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq. And a lot of people would be alive who are dead.”
 
Bai reconstructs the story that shifted the goal of political journalists from being well-connected insiders who knew Presidents intimately (Teddy White, James Reston) to being truth-telling investigators who brought down Presidents, or at least presidential candidates (Woodward and Bernstein). Which led to bad boys whose careers were shattered (John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer) and those who survived (Bill Clinton) and those who came back (Mark Sanford).
 
Yes, we want to know the character of the men (and women) who want to be President – or any elected official. But, if you’re going to indulge in the alternative history of a President Gary Hart, consider an alternative history in which the press corps kept FDR out of the White House.

 

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22
The way the President figures it the Iraqi army’s going to supply the ‘boots on the ground’ to whip ISIS but the other day, up in Congress, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said half the Iraqi army isn’t fit to fight and the other half will have to be rebuilt “with U.S. training and equipment” before it can fight.
 
Part One of the President’s plan to whip ISIS is bombing – and that’s going fine.
 
But Part Two – putting Iraqi boots on the ground – just took a nosedive.

 

 

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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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