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National Republicans

12
Everybody has a theory about why Eric Cantor lost, one that usually reflects their overall theory about politics: It was about immigration. Cantor was aloof and arrogant. The Tea Party is still a force in the GOP. Voters lie to pollsters. Pollsters are stupid.

Let’s consider another possible factor, one that echoes last month’s primaries in North Carolina: Are voters growing more resistant to traditional paid media?
 
Cantor spent $5.4 million. David Brat spent $200,000. That’s 27-to-1. The usual rules say that if you outspend your opponent 27-to-1, you can relax and drink a latte with lobbyists Election Day (which Cantor did).
 
Another number: Cantor’s pollster reportedly had him winning 62-28. He lost by 11 points.
 
Last numbers: About 65,000 people voted. One analyst said the turnout was 14 percent.
 
Again, I invoke the Thomas Mills Primary Poll Rule: primary polls are unreliable because it’s hard to predict who will vote. Especially with a low turnout.
 
But there’s something more. Cantor dominated the traditional paid media – TV ads and direct mail. He drowned Brat (what a name!) there.
 
But Brat had his own channels of communication: Talk radio (Glenn Beck, Rush and Laura Ingraham), social media and the beehive-like Tea Party grassroots network.
 
The reason big money always beat less money is that money got information to voters. In today’s world, voters – especially interested, involved voters – have lots of ways to get information on their own. And they seem to have less trust in the old ways, like TV ads and direct mail. Especially negative messages.
 
You saw that in North Carolina’s primaries: Robin Hudson’s ability to survive a negative TV assault and Clay Aiken’s victory despite being outspent 2-1.
 
We’ve got smart phones and smart cars. Why not smart voters? 

 

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11
Everybody knows Republicans, and especially conservative Republicans, don’t like government subsidies. They’re corporate welfare. They’re government picking winners and losers.  And interfering with the free marketplace. 
 
That’s why Republicans opposed Obama’s solar energy subsidies like Solyandro – a solar business ought to be able to stand on its own two feet and if it can’t government handing it cash is bad false economics.
 
That’s logical.
 
But even if you’re a saint it’s a struggle to avoid temptation – and politicians have the added burden of being able to use other people’s money to help their friends.
 
Bottom line: Just a few days ago, in Raleigh, Republican State Senators voted to give fracking companies a million dollar subsidy.

 

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27
According to the newspaper one super powerful group is going to pick the winner in the Senate race: Women. 
 
Not money. Or virtue. Or sin. But Women.
 
Which, of course, if you’re a woman, may sound like floozy flattery. 
 
Or if you’re a woman, and a tad skeptical, you might be wondering, Why are all these politicians whispering sweet nothings into my ear? 
 
Could the answer be there’s a serpent curled in the weeds whispering to the politicians, Just tell her she’s got the power to fulfill her heart’s desire – that’ll get you her vote.’

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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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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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03

There’s been a lot of political foolishness going on over in Greensboro and I’ve been watching it pretty closely, working with one of Phil Berger Jr.’s opponents in the Republican Primary, Bruce VonCannon.

The other day Berger’s Super PAC broke bad and issued an edict: Voters, they said, ought not to trust Bruce VonCannon to oppose Obamacare.

Now, you might wonder, How can that be? A Republican candidate for Congress not opposing Obamacare?
 
Well, according to Berger’s Super PAC, the answer goes like this: Last December, Bruce VonCannon hired a prominent Republican lawyer with the Arent Fox Law Firm in Washington to handle his campaign’s financial reports with the Federal Elections Commission.
 
Now, in and of itself, that doesn’t sound too bad. But Berger’s Super PAC wasn’t done. It revealed another horrible fact: Arent Fox, it said, has a Democratic partner who’d lobbied for Obamacare.
 
And, to be frank, that’s true.
 
Just like it’s true Arent Fox represents Rand Paul and Ron Paul – which, of course, led Bruce VonCannon to ask Phil Berger, Jr. a simple question: Do you think Rand Paul can’t be trusted on Obamacare too?
 
Then, later on that same day, a friend called and pointed out an even odder fact. Phil Berger, he said, had hired Parker Poe (Terry Sanford’s old law firm) to be his attorney – which led to a final even simpler question for the folks at Berger’s Super PAC: Would you all say that proves Phil Berger, Jr. is for the Food Tax – or would you say there’s something wrong with that kind of thinking?

 

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07
Maybe the attack-Koch strategy is a good idea after all. I had questions, but I’m coming around.
 
Every story needs a villain. That lesson is as old as the Bible. (See: the Serpent, Garden of Eden.)
 
Just as Republicans here want to make William Barber of the NAACP the face of the Democratic Party, the Kazillionaire Kochs are the ideal face of a Republican Party that is firmly committed to looking out for the 1 Percent – or the one-tenth of 1 Percent – at the expense of people who want good schools, good jobs, good health care and safe water to drink and air to breathe.
 
The Kochs are perfect villains in a political environment where the public suspects there’s a corrupt link between Big Business and GOP Government. And the Kochs are just an extension of the Bain Capital brand that Mitt Romney bequeathed to the GOP.
 
Even better, there are two of them. Evil Twins!
 
And it must be working. Charles Koch felt compelled to take to the friendly pages of the Wall Street Journal to protest that “collectivists” are being mean to him.
 
Let’s pile on!

 

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05
When every politician in Washington sounds like a robot reciting a predictable party line, Rand Paul sounds like a man who actually thinks. Sometimes he sounds sounds nutty and sometimes he makes sense, but he’s worth watching – and listening to.
 
Paul first caught my attention when he filibustered against drones, denounced the NSA and defended super-leaker Edward Snowden. Recently, unlike every other weasel-livered Republican, he denounced Ted Nugent, the off-his-rocker rocker, for calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel.” Then Paul turned around and called President Clinton a “sexual predator.”
 
Just this week, he didn’t echo his fellow Republicans’ empty tough talk about what Obama should do to Putin and Russia. Essentially, Rand said, what Russia does in Ukraine isn’t our business, and what the hell would we do anyway? Send in troops? Plus, how do we criticize Russia for unilateral military action after we invaded Iraq?
 
Now Paul has joined with Attorney General Eric Holder to push back against extreme drug-sentencing laws that fill prisons with offenders who might be better dealt with somewhere else. He has even said convicted non-violent drug felons should be able to regain the right to vote.
 
With all this, it’s hard to see how Paul becomes the Republican presidential nominee in 2016. But it’s good to see one politician in Washington who’s not afraid to break ranks with party. And it’s refreshing to hear a politician, especially a Republican, who is thinking.

 

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28
The internal politics of the North Carolina Democratic Party are a mystery to me, so I’m lost when people ask, essentially, “WTF is Randy Voller up to?” So I refer you to an insightful piece by an observer I trust: Bob Geary with Indy Week.
 
Geary begins: “After a stormy year as state Democratic Party chair, Randy Voller should step down for the sake of his party's candidates and North Carolina. I say this knowing that he won't, because Voller sees himself as a visionary leader—but he can't see that he's hurting Democratic prospects for 2014.”
 
And Geary concludes with a spot-on observation about a party chairman’s duty: “In election years, the job is to elect candidates—not be the story instead of them.”
 
Amen. The future of Democratic candidates – not to mention that of North Carolina, the nation and the free world – might depend on whether the party’s executive committee remembers this admonition when it meets March 9.

 

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25
Immigration, the newspaper says, is ‘bedeviling” Congresswoman Renee Ellmers. It’s also bedeviling Speaker John Boehner. And half the Republicans in Washington. 
 
It’s a knotty problem.
 
Part of the politicians have decided it’s best to send every single illegal immigrant back to where they came from – but no one’s quite sure how to go about rounding up 10 to 20 million people. 
 
Another group of politicians, who’re mostly Democrats, want to make all the illegal immigrants citizens. 
 
And, as  a sort of compromise, a third group of politicians propose to let the illegal immigrants stay here but not make them citizens.
 
It gets more complex.
 
Groups like the Farm Bureau say they desperately need workers and without illegal immigrants the crops won’t get picked.
 
And, to make it more complex still, amid all this hollering, no one’s answered a couple of questions.
 
For instance, how, in the middle of a recession with high unemployment, is there a lack of workers? Is there really no one to hire? Or are the farmers simply looking for cheap immigrant labor?
 
Farmers have given their answer to that question loud and clear.
 
But isn’t there an independent study by Harvard or North Carolina State that proves it’s a stone cold fact unemployed workers won’t touch a job on a farm with a ten foot pole?
 
There’s another question.
 
Out of the ten million or so illegal immigrants living here now there must be at least one who’s a saint. Or genius. 
 
Should we deport saints and geniuses?  Or let them stay here?
 
There’re also bound to be some thugs and gang members among the illegals. If we make everyone a citizen, what do we do about them?
 
The politicians are treating illegal immigrants as a class which is a lot simpler than treating people as individuals – but wouldn’t it be more practical to ship the ne’re-do-wells home and allow the saints and geniuses to stay?
 
Sorting out the good guys and bad guys would be another complex problem but, instead of answering tough questions, all we hear is politicians howling: Keep ‘em all here. Send ‘em all home.

 

 

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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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