Blog Articles

North Carolina - Democrats

13
Is Senator Kay Hagan overreacting on Obamacare, or should Democrats rush to the lifeboats and abandon ship?
 
If you go by the N&O website’s headline – “Hagan calls for probe of healthcare website as political support drops” – you’d panic. After all, she had a conference call with reporters to call for investigations of the botched launch. The same day, Public Policy Polling said her race has tightened because of “early attack ads” and “the unpopular rollout of Obamacare.”
 
The hardest thing to do in politics is to underreact. But sometimes you should heed the wise words of ESPN Game Day’s Lee Corso: “Not so fast, my friend.”
 
First question (which we can’t answer): Are Hagan’s polls showing that Obamacare is really changing votes? Or is she doing this on the excitement plan, caught up in overheated hype and headlines?
 
What is the real evidence that Obamacare is moving votes now? Was it or wasn’t it a factor in Virginia? Even some Republican polls say no.
 
Or is this just the usual fluctuation in the polls? Republicans were down last month when the shutdown dominated the news. Democrats are down this month when Obamacare dominates the news. Next month it may be something else. Next year it will certainly be something else. If not, Hagan has no hope.
 
Here’s what PPP says about Obamacare: “It's always been unpopular in North Carolina and currently 38% of voters say they approve of it to 48% who disapprove, numbers pretty consistent with what we've found over the years.”
 
The approve/disapprove numbers, then, haven’t changed much. And 48-38 isn’t a margin that decides elections.
 
PPP goes on: “But what's really hurting Democrats is its being back in the news- 69% of voters say its rollout has been unsuccessful so far to only 25% who deem it a success.”
 
True that. And Hagan’s call for investigations put the story – and her drop in the polls – at the top of Page One.
 
Then she faces this reaction from Democrats, summed up by Joe Sinsheimer: "I practiced national politics for two decades as a Democratic consultant, and one of the few lessons I really learned, is that politicians who ‘try to have their cake and eat it too’ are rarely successful. When you try to hedge your positions, your enemies rarely believe you, and you just anger your supporters….Perhaps someone should call Sen. Hagan's office and explain this to her. She is not going to get re-elected attacking Obamacare.”
 
What’s the alternative? Remain calm. Step away from the ledge. Repeat after me: “This website mess needs to be fixed. But we’d also better fix our health care mess. If we don’t, it will bankrupt our nation and every family in it. What's the Republicans’ plan?”
 

 

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12
Governor McCrory and legislative Republicans have a theory: Cut taxes and regulations, and jobs will flow in. What if they’re wrong – not only on the economics, but also on the politics?
 
What if their theory leads to North Carolina becoming a more Democratic state?
 
The question arises from two recent conversations: one with an experienced economic developer and the other with a local real estate agent. Both said their prospects today are asking: “What’s going on in North Carolina?”
 
(Which was the first question, though he used more colorful language, that John Oliver asked in his show Saturday night. He added: “North Carolina is the meth lab of democracy.”)
 
That word is getting around the country. If McCrory, Berger, Tillis & Co. are wrong, companies aren’t saying: “Let’s get on down to North Carolina where taxes are low and regulations are non-existent.” They’re saying: “Are the smart, creative people I need going to go there – or stay there?” And: “Does my family want to live there?”
 
So here is what will happen. Cities like Raleigh and Durham and Charlotte will do what Austin did with its “Keep Austin Weird” campaign. They’ll tell the rest of the world: “We’re not like the other yahoos here. We’re different. Come on down.”
 
The people and the jobs will keep coming to Raleigh and Durham and Charlotte, the Democratic areas. Nobody will go to the Republican strongholds – the small towns and rural areas. Those places will wither away as their young people move away.
 
And North Carolina will be more Democratic.

 

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08
It’s one town and one election, but it was one hell of a shot in the arm for an old Democratic war horse like me.
 
A dedicated, sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated crew of young organizers and Appalachian State students helped sweep the Boone Town Council races for a slate of progressive, forward-looking candidates, including Andy Ball for Mayor.
 
This, mind you, at ground zero of the Republican Party’s voter-suppression campaign.
 
I was there Tuesday night to watch them celebrate their win. I take special pride because our daughter, Maggie, is one of the crew (and she’s the new finance director of the Watauga County Democratic Party!) She was one of an impressive band of brothers and sisters who did the hard, time-consuming and often-thankless work of turning out voters.
 
They were led by two brilliant young organizers, Jesse Allen Presnell and Ian O’Keefe. They brought together young and young-at-heart warriors, including wise vets like Jerry Wayne Williamson.
 
If anybody doubts the future of North Carolina Democrats, go to Boone.

 

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07
The Republican civil war takes off, Obamacare takes a hit, Virginia is still purple, a big GOP personality wins big in blue New Jersey, public pollsters lose big and a new generation of Democratic leaders rises across North Carolina. Let's run it all down.
 
GOP civil war: The skirmishes are over, and the real war begins. Christie vs. Cruz in 2016. Tea Party and evangelicals vs. Thom Tillis. Tea Party vs. Pittenger (NC-09). Tea Party vs. the “Washington establishment.” Have at it!
 
Obamacare: Good luck arguing that Obamacare didn’t hurt Terry McAuliffe in Virginia. Its opponents believe it did and the media suspects it did, so the heat is going to get a lot hotter. Obamacare supporters have claimed that, once it goes into effect, the American public will love it so much they’ll never give it up. We’re still waiting for that to kick in.
 
Virginia: Democrats are oddly deflated in victory. They thought McAuliffe would win bigger, especially with a $15 million advantage. Maybe Virginia (like North Carolina) is just always going to be close, maybe voters didn’t like either candidate, maybe the Republican establishment abandoned Ken Cuccinelli, maybe it was Obamacare. Still, a win is a win.
 
Pollsters: Virginia was a surprise because public pollsters had McAuliffe winning big. Public Policy Polling had his margin at 7 points (it was 2.5). Some newspaper polls said he had double-digit leads. Geoff Garin, McAuliffe’s pollster, said his last poll pegged it at 3 points, and he dismissed the idea of a last-minute, weekend shift. Here’s the lesson: Campaigns spend a lot of money making sure polls are right, but public polls don’t have that same incentive. They want maximum publicity at minimum cost. Politicians always ask: “Where can I get a cheap poll?” My answer: “Why don’t you get a good poll instead?”
 
New Jersey: NC GOP strategist Paul Shumaker noted that this is a case where an outsized (in many ways) personality overcame a state’s political structure. Chris Christie is a force of nature, and he rode another force of nature, Hurricane Sandy, to victory in a Democratic state. But also note that heavy spending by outside groups kept New Jersey’s legislature Democratic. And don’t count on Christie’s win converting the Tea Party. Anybody who hugs Obama and lets gays marry isn’t winning the GOP nomination in 2016.
 
North Carolina: A remarkable cohort of young Democratic leaders won city and town races across the state Tuesday. In the past, municipal officers haven’t been great launching pads for political careers. But that is changing as North Carolina urbanizes. Cities and towns can be training grounds, testing grounds and proving grounds for new leaders. The party should take note and make room. Click here for a rundown on these races and the rising stars.

 

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05
Some Democrats fear – and Carter sincerely hopes – that the Rev. William Barber will become the face of the Democratic Party.
 
But ponder this: If Barber can inspire thousands of people to protest on “Moral Mondays” – and 900 of them to get arrested – how many people can he inspire to the polls a year from now?
 
Ned Barnett put it this way in Sunday’s N&O: “Is there deep enough discontent to produce a tidal wave for change during a typically low-turnout mid-term election?”
 
Conventional wisdom and history tell us that voter turnout in off-years tends to be whiter and older. But there is a hot streak of anger this year running through the segments of the electorate that are younger, darker, more urban and more progressive. For one thing, they don’t like politicians trying to keep them from voting.
 
Anger fueled the Tea Party’s rise in 2009. A backlash against Obama led to the 2010 GOP sweep.
 
Now the anger is on the other side. It led thousands to protest publicly. It led school teachers to stage a “walk-in.”
 
Yes, things could cool off in a year. Or get hotter.

 

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31
If Democrats want to come back in North Carolina, they need to avoid their usual mistake of thinking it’s all about the issues.
 
It’s in Democrats’ DNA to do that. We’re issues people. We care a lot about things like Medicaid expansion, Common Core curriculum, growth strategies and infrastructure.
 
It’s not that voters don’t care. But they easily figure out which party is with them on issues.
 
What swings swing voters is character. That’s why negative ads and mailers work. They raise questions about politicians’ character, credibility, judgment and honesty. Swing voters ultimately vote for the candidate they trust most – or against the candidate they trust least.
 
Democrats will not beat Governor McCrory on Medicaid expansion. They can beat him for saying one thing and doing another. Like promising to do away with cronyism, then setting up a political patronage system. Like promising to cut “waste and fraud” in Medicaid, then paying two 24-year-olds $87,000 to help run Medicaid.
 
That’s about character, integrity and trust.
 
You won’t beat Republican legislators on a particular issue, but you can beat them on being mean, vindictive and uncaring to teachers, women, minorities, young people and anybody who’s having hard economic times.
 
Some Democrats get it. Like President Obama. His campaign relentlessly portrayed Mitt Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat with contempt for average folks.
 
Too many Democrats are like the fine candidate who had some serious image problems with voters, but just knew they’d come around when they heard his job-training ideas. Suffice it to say the voters were able to restrain their enthusiasm.

 

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29
What’s the over/under on how many bad headlines and headaches will come from Governor McCrory’s plan to shift job recruitment from the N.C. Department of Commerce to a new “public-private nonprofit corporation”?
 
The N&O’s Rob Christensen reported that similar partnerships across the country have been criticized for “misuse of taxpayer money, conflicts of interest, excessive executive pay, and little public accountability.”
 
Sounds like an investigative journalist’s dream.
 
Sounds like exactly what has come out of McCrory’s drive to fix the “broken” Medicaid system.
 
Doesn’t the Governor have somebody him sounding the alarm on these things? Somebody who says: “Governor, remember what we said about the Rural Development Center? They’re going to say the same thing about this. And probably about the time 2016 rolls around.”
 
A historical note: Lt. Governor Bob Jordan proposed a public-private effort like this in 1988, when he ran against Governor Jim Martin. Governor Martin said then it was the worst idea he could imagine.

 

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28
The judge, after I asked about Eric Holder’s lawsuit, grunted and said, Whatever gave you the idea that law and justice are the same thing – the law can be a darn peculiar beast.
 
Not long ago the Attorney General of the whole United States sued the whole state of North Carolina to put a stone cold stop to the state’s new ‘voter laws.’
 
Republican legislators, outraged at being accused of trampling on the Constitution, but also unintimidated, shot back their new laws were not only 100% legal but, what’s more, were urgently needed to stop the state’s rampant voter fraud (which, oddly, hardly a soul seems to have seen or heard a word about before the new law passed).
 
The Attorney General didn’t flinch: He declared all that talk about voter fraud was a ruse hiding what legislators were really doing – scheming to make it harder for African Americans to vote.
 
Which was a pretty unkind thing to say.
 
It sounded more like Reverend Barber on a rant than a distinguished jurist solemnly defending the constitution.
 
But that’s not what’s odd about Eric Holder’s case.
 
It seems, according to the newspapers, the law is crystal clear on one fact: Making it harder for African Americans to vote because they’re African Americans is taboo. That’s discrimination. Pure and simple. And it’s illegal.
 
But, and this is the odd fact, passing a law to make it harder for Democrats to vote because they’re Democrats is fine. That’s not racial discrimination. It’s just hardball politics. And, strange as it sounds, it’s perfectly legal.
 
That’s odd, you say.
 
Well, I thought so too – but the newspaper gave an example it’s hard to get around: Redistricting.
 
For the better part of a century Democrats redistricted to make it harder for Republican voters to elect Republican candidates then, when the shoe was on the other foot, Republicans did the same thing (only the other way around). And every bit of that political-advantage-grabbing by one party over the other was perfectly legal.
 
In fact, a three judge panel just bluntly told a group of Democrats who’d sued because they didn’t like being on the receiving end of the Republican redistricting plan: Political losses and partisan disadvantages are not the proper subject for judicial review.
 
So there it is.
 
Which in the inerrant logic of the law means: Republicans requiring voters to have IDs, because they figured out that Democrats are less likely to have them, is fine. That’s perfectly legal.
 
Now, of course, like most logic there’s a limit to how much light it can shed. And that’s where the high-minded workings of law and logic run afoul of a murky kind of devilment in the form of a series of shoal-like facts, including: a) African Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates; and b) African Americans are less likely to have IDs; so c) targeting Democrats without IDs also means targeting African Americans.
 
So here’s how the law works: If you want fewer African Americans to vote because they’re African Americans, it’s illegal. But if you want fewer Democrats to vote because they’re Democrats, and as a result fewer African Americans vote, it’s legal.
 
Which was the judges’ point about the law: It’s a peculiar beast.
 
 
 

 

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28
We all are shocked – shocked, I say – that Governor McCrory and the Republican Party are putting political cronies in state jobs. Like that has never happened before.
 
I’m reminded of the Jim Hunt supporter who wanted to get a state job for a local boy. The Governor’s patronage chief, Joe Pell, asked, “Is he qualified?” The supporter said, “Hell, Joe, if he was qualified we wouldn’t need you down here.”
 
But here is the catch: Governor McCrory promised to hold himself and his administration to a higher standard. He promised to do away with the old crony-ridden, “good old boy and good old girl” system. No more politics as usual, he said.
 
Yes, he could say, “Everybody did it.” But the fact remains: He broke his promise.

 

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23
Roy Cooper has made strong moves to clear the 2016 Democratic primary field for Governor. But he also may be putting a big obstacle in his path.
 
The AG is adamant that he can go into court and defend Republican-supported laws on voter identification and same-sex marriage, even though he adamantly opposes those laws.
 
Maybe he can. But why would he? And is that smart politics?
 
Conventional wisdom says Cooper leads the Democratic pack today. He’s a proven vote-getter. He comes right out of the Sanford-Hunt central casting school for Democratic governors. He straddles the worlds of small-town values and big-city polish.
 
But Cooper is in the same position as Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. Clinton has to worry about an Elizabeth Warren-type challenge from the left. Cooper, too, has to worry about a credible challenge from the left. Anthony Foxx, say.
 
Call them “the left,” call them liberals, call them progressives, there is a large cohort of Democrats in North Carolina who were first energized by Howard Dean in 2004, then mobilized by Obama in 2008 and 2012 and now enraged by Republicans in Raleigh.
 
How will they react when a primary opponent confronts Cooper in a debate: “Roy, you said that as a matter of conscience you could not support laws the Republican legislature passed on voter ID and same-sex marriage. But you went into court and defended the constitutionality of both those laws. Why?”
 
Lawyers might understand defending a law you think is wrong. But laymen – and voters who feel passionately about those issues – may not.

 

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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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