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North Carolina - Democrats

13
The Watauga Wizard, Jerry Wayne Williamson, nails it: “McCrory Blocks Traffic on All Bridges Going into CD12.” Jerry adds in his Watauga Watch blog:
 
“(Congressman Mel Watt’s) resignation should have triggered a special election to fill his unexpired term in the U.S. House. But, no, Gov. McCrory decided that the seat could be filled on November 4, 2014, along with every other seat in Congress. In other words, citizens of the 12th Congressional District will have no representation in Congress for the next 300 days. Well, after all, those people are mainly black and didn't vote for McCrory. Who the hell cares whether they have a congressman for 2014?”
 
In light of Chris Christie’s Bridgegate, you wonder what a public records request might unearth here.  Maybe an email along the lines of: “Time for some problems in Mel Watt’s district.”
 
Another 12th District resident asked: “Would McCrory have done the same if it was a safe GOP seat?” You know the answer.
 
For McCrory, this was an opportunity to do the right thing for the people he was elected to serve. Instead, he did the politics-as-usual thing.

 

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09
The surprise wasn’t Governor McCrory’s Cabinet Secretaries ripping into the liberals over at the Southern Environmental Law Center, calling them ‘do-gooders sitting in ivory towers in air-conditioned offices in Chapel Hill sipping lattes’;--- the surprise was the cost of the two bridges the Governor’s camp and the environmentalists  were battling over.
 
The Governor’s folks want to build to a new three-mile long bridge to Cape Hatteras which will cost $215 million.
 
The SELC adamantly disagrees and, instead, wants the department to build a seventeen-mile bridge (because the longer bridge will protect the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge).
 
The longer bridge, according to the state, will cost a cool billion dollars.
 
Curious, after doing a little math, I looked up the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge to see what kind of varmints the SELC was protecting: The Wildlife Refuge is a way station for migratory birds like ducks, geese, and swans, and home to alligators, wolves, and turtles (which are endangered species).
 
Now, I don’t have a bit of use for alligators or wolves but it’s hard not to admire a creature as noble as the Snow Goose though, still, the idea of spending $785 million more so a goose doesn’t have to fly around a bridge seems a bit odd.

 

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09
Governor McCrory is in a box on teacher pay, and Democrats can’t let him wriggle out.
 
You don’t need to be a political genius to predict what’s coming. McCrory will try to make a big splash by proposing a pay raise for teachers this year. He has to. He and the Republican legislature have angered and alienated teachers, all educators, school board members, students, parents, Democrats and Republicans.
 
So they’ll try to do damage control in the May legislature. Call it "the Teacher Pay Shuffle." Probably a one-year raise and a vague promise about the future. (They’ll say they can’t do more because of Medicaid. Which they’ll blame on Bev Perdue, Obamacare and Benghazi.)
 
Unfortunately, Jim Hunt beat them to the punch. His op-ed Sunday made it clear than one-year-and-a-promise isn’t enough. There has to be a four-year commitment to reach the national average, which is where we were in Hunt’s fourth term.
 
Hunt set the bar that McCrory has to meet. Again.

 

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07
Don’t underestimate a candidate who already won 12 million Americans’ votes on TV.
 
Clay Aiken may be a surprising candidate for Congress, but he may be just what Democrats need: a new face and fresh blood that energizes new voters, especially young voters.
 
The social-media response to his possible candidacy in the 2nd District was striking, so I asked three 20-somethings what that’s about.
 
One said: “He’s got charisma. He can raise money. And he can get people excited about the race here and around the country.”
 
Another mentioned Aiken’s work as chairman and co-founder of the National Inclusion Project for children with disabilities. President Bush appointed him to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. He’s a local boy who has done well and done good.
 
A third said Democrats need “nontraditional candidates with unique voices.”
 
Aiken is that. And apparently he can handle the rough-and-tumble. After he finished second on NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice, Donald Trump called him “tough, smart and cunning.”
 
He’s got to stop this runner-up stuff, though. One wit said: “The good news is he’s leading other Democrats in the polls. The bad news is he’s behind Ruben Studdard.”
 
Yes, he’s gay. Get over it. Democrats aren’t going to win the Phil Robertson vote.
 
Speaking of Robertson, Aiken had thoughtful comments about that flap: "There are certain things in society that we have become universally against: racism, obviously, is wrong. The treatment of people with disabilities is wrong. But homophobia is one thing that we are still a little bit accepting of in certain areas….But times have changed enough and perceptions have changed enough in the time that I've even been in the public eye, that I think we've made a lot of progress."
 
Once again, the Democratic Party is having an old debate: Do we need more “moderate” candidates who look like me (old white guys), or do we look to a new generation?
 
In a recent article about Terry Sanford, Barry Yeoman asked Mac McCorkle at Duke’s Sanford School what Sanford would tell Democrats today. McCorkle said:
 
“It would be very clear to him: Go young, and go diverse. He would be counseling people: Step aside. Be the elder statesmen. But bring in the young. They’re going to make mistakes, but they’re the future.”
 
Count me in with Terry and the young.
 

 

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06
Millions of dollars will be spent and billions of words spilled, but only one thing will decide this election: Will voters be madder at President Obama or at Republicans in the legislature?
 
On today’s market, the outlook for Democrats is as chilling as a New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge. For two months, the news has been all Obamacare – and all bad. While Obama energizes voters when he’s on the ballot, the magic doesn’t transfer when he’s not. In 2010, his voters stayed home and the Obama-haters turned out in droves. That’s what got North Carolina in this mess.
 
If that happens again, Kay Hagan could lose, and Republicans could control both houses of Congress and keep super-majorities in Raleigh.
 
2015 would be no fun.
 
But, then, in 2016, Americans and North Carolinians would recoil at the result, Republicans will nominate Ted Cruz for President and there will be a Democratic landslide statewide and nationally.
 
There’s also a more optimistic scenario for Democrats this year: Anger at the legislature over the damage done to education could trump anger at Obama. The GOP and Tea Party could overreach nationally, like 1998, when Newt Gingrich & Co. overreached, lost big and paved the road for John Edwards’ election.
 
The point is that elections today are driven by negative emotions, namely fear and anger. No politician is popular. No politician has approval ratings above the 40s in North Carolina. By contrast, Jim Hunt stayed north of 60 percent most of the time he was Governor.
 
So keep an eye on one thing: Who are the voters maddest at in November?

 

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18
Maybe I should apologize. But would Bob Rucho apologize? No sir! So I’ll double down, as they say.
 
My blog yesterday – warning that the next Congress might be run by people who think like Rucho – apparently ruined the Christmas spirit for some Democrats.
 
My friend Jerry Wayne Williamson of Boone (follow him at @JerryWilliamso1) wrote, “Well, Merry Christmas to you too! That's the most depressing thing I've read all morning!” Long-time colleague June Milby said, “Gary, It's the Christmas season, even Scrooge was redeemed right there at the end. Don't hit us too hard with the ghosts of Christmas past. There's plenty of time in January for that!
 
I can’t help it. And here I go again. Spoiler alert: This could really ruin your Christmas.
 
Here it is: Think about the chances that the 2014 elections could be even worse for Democrats than 2010 was.
 
Historically, second mid-term elections are disastrous for Presidents. See LBJ in 1968, Nixon/Ford in 1974 and Reagan in 1986. There are exceptions, like Clinton in 1998.
 
But here’s a disturbing poll finding from this week, a nugget that the Washington Post called “one very bad number for Obama”: The Post-ABC poll asked whether people trust Obama or the Republicans in Congress to do a better job "coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years." Forty-one percent said they trusted Obama. Forty-one percent said they trusted Republicans in Congress.
 
Let that sink in. Think about how the Republicans in Congress have done their jobs in recent years: the shutdowns, the shakedowns and the sheer nuttiness. Then tell yourself: Americans trust that crowd just as much as they trust the President.
 
This reflects, of course, the disastrous debut of Obamacare. Maybe, as some pundits predict, that will be gone and forgotten next November. Maybe not.
 
Thus far, experience tells us that when Obama is on the ballot, all goes well. Maybe it’s that people just feel good voting for him. But when he’s not on the ballot, look out.
 
And make no mistake: For better or for worse, the 2014 election will be a referendum on Obama. There is no escaping it. Even worse, there is not a lot that down-ballot candidates, from Senator Kay Hagan down, can do about it.
 
So, as Democrats enjoy Christmas and prepare for a new year, they need to plan for the worst, hope for the best and work like hell.

 

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05
A TAPster who pays attention to politics and high school football notes that James Hunt High and Terry Sanford High played each other in the first round of the state 3AA football playoffs.
 
The Hunt Warriors beat the Sanford Bulldogs 35-21 on November 15. Since then, Hunt has also beaten West Brunswick and Douglas Byrd to reach the regional files tomorrow night against Southern Durham.
 
Knowing both men, it’s hard to imagine that either team’s players could compete harder than their namesakes. And the mascots are on the money.
 
Do you think there’ll ever be a James Martin High vs. Pat McCrory High game?

 

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26
As if I didn’t get enough JFK last week, I’m reading a new book about how Kennedy, in his last months, was growing into and getting better at the roles of President, politician and persuader-in-chief.
 
If only President Obama could summon some of that mojo now on Obamacare.
 
The book (“JFK’s Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President,” by Thurston Clark) shows how Kennedy used the presidential pulpit in late 1963 to rally public support on three big issues: civil rights, a tax cut and a nuclear test ban treaty.
 
Kennedy was pushing on all three fronts, all while grieving the death of his infant son, coping with his wife’s grief, dealing with riots and violence in the South, sorting through conflicting advice on Vietnam and plotting a reelection campaign.
 
But he was able, sometimes off the cuff, to come up with lines like this one from his address to the nation on civil rights: "We are confronted primarily with a moral issue....It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.”
 
In the history of American politics, that stands as one of the most powerful statements a President ever made.
 
Clark describes a political trip out West in September, much like the trip Kennedy was to make to Texas two months later. His staff had laid out a schedule and a set of speeches that focused on conservation, national parks and natural resources.
 
The urbane Kennedy was about as much an outdoorsman as President Obama. And it showed. His speeches were flat, the crowds were flat, and the trip looked like a flop. Then, at one stop, Kennedy ad-libbed a few remarks about the test ban treaty – and the importance of avoiding nuclear war. The crowd came alive. Kennedy took note. He started tossing aside his prepared texts and talking about the treaty at every stop. The crowds grew, and so did their applause. The trip turned into a triumph. Kennedy concluded that peace could be a winning issue against Barry Goldwater in 1964.
 
Kennedy had developed the gift of reading his audiences, feeding off their reactions and turning what he learned into a tool for leadership.
 
Contrast all this with President Obama today. For all his speechmaking skills, the President seems unable or unwilling to make a public case for his one signature issue, the Affordable Care Act.
 
It’s telling when the best argument comes from a Republican Governor, John Kasich of Ohio: “It saves lives.”
 
Where is Obama’s speech? Where is the argument that Obamacare saves lives and saves money? Where are the mystical chords, part reason and part emotion, that Kennedy learned to touch?
 
So far, President Obama’s main contribution to the dialogue has been, “It’s on me.” He talks about websites and tech glitches, not human beings and transcending issues. So Democrats like Senator Kay Hagan are running scared and some fear that 2014 could be another 2010.
 
Presidents can’t make websites work. But they can make moral and political arguments. This President needs to get on it.

 

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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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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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