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19
Gary is taking a break from blogging. Here's a guest blog from Joe Stewart, Executive Director of the NC FreeEnterprise Foundation; a nonpartisan non-profit organization that conducts research on candidates, campaigns and voter attitudes in North Carolina.

Once the match up in the US Senate race was known on primary election night, a reporter asked me what I thought the key public policy issues were that Kay Hagan and Tom Tillis would battle over. 
 
I said with the volume of ads coming from both campaigns and outside sources, any number of issues will be raised – which will resonate with undecided voters (the key group for both Tillis and Hagan) is hard to predict.

Then this past week I read a news report that leading economists say the Chinese economy may surpass that of the United States as the largest in the world sometime in 2014, two years ahead of previous predictions.
 
If indeed that comes to pass during the 2014 campaign season, the impact on the collective political psyche of the American public may well cast a long shadow over every other issue.
 
Media attention given this will be extensive, and how we slipped from the top spot and what it means for our nation’s standing in the world will be hotly debated along partisan lines.

In North Carolina, US Senate candidates should anticipate voters will want answers on how this global shift impacts their ability to provide for their family, and what’s needed to assure the future economic well-being of their children and grandchildren.

After all, even when election year issues are international in nature, all politics tends to be local.

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16

Gary is taking a break from blogging. Here is a blog from a Tapster:

We wonder if Speaker and Candidate Tillis thinks his opponent in the
fall is the singer Sting: "Every step you take, every move you make,
I'll be watching you."

How can the speaker possibly govern effectively while campaigning for
US Senate and knowing that the Hagan campaign hovers over him like a
drone, waiting to fire a missile at every decision?

This mess creates a climate for two things. One is the possibility for
a screwup when somebody trades campaign favors for legislative
attention.  That's bad, and means jail time for somebody.

The other possibility is actually worse for all of us. It is the great
likelihood that the House does nothing meaningful. Just when the state
needs creative and bold policy action, a smart politico like Tillis
will be so cautious that nothing much will happen this summer on his
watch.

All because he doesn't want to get stung.

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14
When you watch the evening news, you learn two things about people who watch the evening news. First, we vote, because we drown in political ads before elections. And, second, we have every disease and bad health condition known to medicine, especially the pharmaceutical industry.
 
We’re at risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, arthritis, hemorrhoids, dry eyes, allergies, depression and all the alphabet: COPD, BPH, ED and Low T.
 
Watching one ad after another will make you feel sick – or like turning off the TV. Even worse are the warnings about possible side effects. The scariest is “suicidal thoughts or actions.”
 
And then there’s the ever-present specter of the four-hour erection. Let’s not even go there.
 
So you have a choice when you watch: You can get depressed about the health of the body politic – or about your own health.

 

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13
We were reviewing the Board of Elections’ schedule and making plans for the fall campaign. Then Brad Crone called to say Keith Crisco would concede this morning. Then we were sent reeling by the shock of Keith’s death.
 
Suddenly, campaigns, vote counts and elections-board canvasses seemed not so important.
 
I remembered meeting with Keith in late January, just after I began working with Clay Aiken.  At Keith’s invitation, he and I met after work at a North Hills restaurant. He had hot tea, and I had a Diet Coke.
 
Keith was tall and distinguished-looking. He wore a dark business suit, black cowboy boots and a wide-brimmed white hat. He looked like a man equally at home on a farm, on a factory floor or in a boardroom.
 
It was an open, pleasant conversation about the upcoming race. No bluster or tough talk. We agreed that, whatever happened in the primary, we would work together in the fall.
 
In politics and in life, you make plans and you act as if you’re in control. Then life reminds you that you’re not in control.
 
Not one of us is guaranteed one more day, or even one more hour.
 
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:34), Jesus said, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Amen.
 

 

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12
Years ago a Democratic gnome sitting in a cloister pouring over reams of polls and demographics had a profound revelation: Most of the people who didn’t vote were Democrats. The word spread from gnome to pollster to politicians where it led to scads of mischief (all dressed in the trappings of government) as Democrats passed laws like same day voting, early voting, and moter-voter registration – all to elect more Democrats.
 
Then the Republicans took power. And set about repealing the Democrats’ laws. And then, as sure as one bad deed leads to another, started passing new laws of their own (also in the name of good government) – the way the Republican politicians saw it a pandemic of voter fraud was loose in the country and the cure to kill that nasty germ was to inoculate everyone with massive doses of Voter IDs.  
 
By the time all the political machinations were done no one had clean hands but, of course, no Democrat fessed up to doing any conniving and no Republican questioned the Republicans’ counter-conniving.
 
Until Rand Paul (who must have known he was about to stick his head straight into the tiger’s mouth) said, Everybody’s gone completely crazy on the Voter ID thing.
 
That made Paul no friends in either camp. Republicans said he’d just proven he  wasn’t tough enough to be the conservatives’  candidate for President in 2016 and Democrats said they didn’t believe a word Rand Paul said because he’d once also said the 1964 Civil Rights Act wasn’t perfect.
 
Before sundown Paul was getting shot by politicians from both sides – which makes a pretty good case he may be exactly the man we need for President in 2016.

 

 

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12
Political consultants are used to hearing – and ignoring – clients (and their friends and family) say: “People here don’t like negative ads. They don’t work.”
 
But now there may be something to that argument in the Triangle media market. Exhibit A: The failure of the Republican attack strategy against Robin Hudson. Exhibit B: Clay Aiken’s victory in the 2nd District primary.
 
Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to argue that negative ads don’t work. They do – or they can. But there is something going on here that political strategists better acknowledge, understand and use. Or pay a high price.
 
We are now probably the most sophisticated consumers of political advertising in America. Since 2008, we have seen more ads than anybody anywhere. And now the Triangle – and especially Wake County – is perhaps THE most important political battleground in the nation. So we’ll see more this year.
 
We’re especially sophisticated when it comes to evaluating negative ads. We’re skeptical when an ad claims that a judge “sided with child molesters.” That didn’t pass the smell test.
 
In Clay Aiken’s case, Keith Crisco’s negative ad may have hurt Aiken AND hurt Crisco AND helped Toni Morris.
 
This fall, strategists must recalculate their negative ads. The old formula of dark music, doctored photos, ominous music and outlandish claims not only may flop, it may create a backlash.

 

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08
I’ve been in politics longer than Clay Aiken has been alive (38 years vs. 35), but he took me to school this week.
 
Everything I’ve learned tells me that if (A) you’re massively outspent by your opponent and (B) he runs three or four ads to your one and (C) one of those is a negative attack ad that you can’t afford to answer, then (QED) you lose.
 
But Aiken won. (No, the final count isn’t done. But it’s over.)
 
How? Well, some people say it’s just name recognition and personal popularity. Or maybe the Colbert Bump. Or all the Clay fans.
 
But there may be something else here – and a lesson for us all.
 
A couple of analysts have said the campaign relied solely on name recognition. Not true. In the final weeks, short of money, the campaign had one big asset: Clay Aiken and his voice.
 
Not his singing voice. But a voice that showed he knew the issues and the people in his district.  A voice that is distinctly different from the stale, bitter rhetoric of other politicians. And, above all, a positive voice in a negative din. Amid the ugly glut of attack ads in the final days, you heard one positive voice: Clay Aiken’s.
 
He also talked to people all over the district. He went on Colbert and MSNBC (true, venues that weren’t available to other politicians). He had a microphone, and he used his voice.
 
And there was one other thing: In an anti-politics age, Aiken was the anti-politician.
 
Don’t underestimate him again. I sure won’t.

 

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06
A group of politicians called Justice for All North Carolinians have had an ad on TV slamming liberal Judge Robin Hudson for ‘siding with child molesters’ in a Supreme Court decision. 
 
Now if that sounds like a little political fact twisting – it is.
 
Here’s what happened: The state legislature passed new laws on child molesters, including new punishments like wearing electronic monitors – which was without a doubt a good idea.
 
Next there was a lawsuit – that landed in the Supreme Court – over whether to apply those new laws retroactively to varmints (child molesters) who’d been convicted before the laws passed.
 
Of course, it’s an old and cherished democratic principle politicians (and legislatures) ought not to have the power to pass a law one day then prosecute people who broke it the day before – it’d be like giving politicians the power to say, Sure, it was legal when you did it but it’s a crime now.
 
But in the hands of a group of politicos out to win a Supreme Court election standing up for an abstract democratic principle (which is what Hudson was doing) didn’t mean squat – in fact, it morphed into ‘Robin Hudson sides with child molesters.’
 
Judge Hudson’s not my cup of tea. But, now, there’s another abstract principle at play in her election that has to be weighed alongside her ideology: What is the consequence if Robin Hudson loses because a Super PAC told voters a lie?
 
And the answer is: More lies.
 
So here’s a perplexing dilemma: Which matters most? Defeating Robin Hudson and encouraging more lyin’ in politics?
 
Or electing a liberal Judge and demonstrating lying backfires?

 

 

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06
A reader notes the irony of Republicans rejecting Common Core because it’s from Washington, or “Big Government” or President Obama. The implication is that state- and local-level thinking is by definition better.
 
He points out: “The irony is that the GOP resists Washington’s direction while its leaders in North Carolina warmly embrace the political guidance and inspiration of a talking head like Sean Hannity (a New York entertainer, for goodness sakes) and happily introduce legislation conceived and drafted elsewhere by the infamous ALEC.”
 
Then this morning’s N&O points out that the bill to let students attend any public school in the state “has similar language to one proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a largely private conservative group backed by major corporations.”

 

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05
In the last week or so before the election, in the midst of conniving to win the Republican primary for Congress, young Phil Berger (and his Super PAC) whacked one opponent as a liberal, another as a wild-eyed big spender, and a third as a secret agent who’s too cozy with Chinese textile firms.
 
The ‘secret agent’ was Bruce VonCannon.
 
And Berger’s whack says a lot about Berger’s politics.
 
Bruce VonCannon was born and raised in Asheboro where his father worked for the Post Office and his mother worked for the Eveready Battery Company. In High School he won the state tennis championship then attended Princeton on a scholarship and, his senior year, was offered a scholarship to study abroad in Singapore.
 
Though he didn’t know it at the time, he’d taken the first step down a road that would lead him to a 27 year career in overseas banking.
 
Last year, after working as CEO of the Swiss Rothschild Bank in Hong Kong, he retired and returned home and that, in Berger’s Super PAC’s eyes, was all the proof they needed to whack him with an ad for being too cozy with Chinese textile firms – which was news to VonCannon.
 
After I saw their ad, since I’ve been helping VonCannon, I asked to see their research which arrived in reams of Internet links and nebulous documents but, when you sorted it all out, their story went like this:
 
Berger’s Super PAC hadn’t found a shred of evidence Bruce VonCannon owned a single share of stock in a Chinese textile firm. Or that he’d ever ‘partnered’ with a Chinese textile firm.
 
His employer – the Swiss Rothschild Bank – didn’t own a single share of stock in a Chinese textile firm either.
 
And the Rothschild family Group – which owned the Swiss Rothschild Bank – didn’t own a single share of stock in a Chinese textile firm.
 
However it did own a French bank which owned stock in a Chinese Mutual Fund – but that Fund didn’t own a single share of Chinese textile stock either.
 
From there the trial twisted and turned through Chinese Funds until, at last, they found someone who owned stock in two Chinese textile firms – which irrefutably proved, according to Berger’s PAC, that Bruce VonCannon was partnered with people he didn’t know, and had never laid eyes on, in China.
 
What the Super PAC was doing is called guilt by association and they believed it down to their toenails.
 
I reckon, if someone wasn’t troubled by scruples, they could also use the Super PAC’s logic to blame young Phil Berger for all the sinning that went on in Babylon – after all, Berger descended from Adam and so did the Babylonians and, if you hold with guilt by association, that’s pretty solid proof Berger’s responsible for sinning that went on 4,000 years ago even though he wasn’t there and didn’t know one of the sinners.
 
Of course, that’s silly – it would be outrageous to blame someone for sinning someone else they didn’t even know did. Wouldn’t it?

 

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Carter & Gary
 
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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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