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National Republicans

12
 
Polymorphous America enjoyed a boom week last week.
 
The Senate passed a bill to show any fellow who doesn’t cotton to hiring transgenders, bisexuals or gay people the error of his ways. And, overjoyed, the President announced a more tolerant America goes hand in hand with a more prosperous America – as if entrepreneurs are now going to rush out and say, Gosh, the Senate banned transgender discrimination – I better hire more workers.
 
Who would have ever dreamed gay rights is the key to prosperity?
 
Shame on Obama for keeping that secret to himself all these years.
 
There’s just no rational way to explain it.
 

 

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11
The way the Tea Partiers see it, to save the country they have to do to the Washington Republicans what General Sheridan did to the Indians during the Indian Wars.
 
Because when the Tea Partiers say, We can’t vote to raise the Debt Ceiling unless Obama cuts spending – the Republican Bosses say back, Geez, not raise the Debt Ceiling? That’s risky. Forget about it.
 
The Tea Partiers figure when it comes to saving the country a little risk is fine, but the Washington Bosses see that same risk as getting in the way of their winning elections.
 
Which brings us to a very old subject: Fiction in politics.
 
Up in Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli just lost the Republican campaign for Governor and before the sun rose the next morning, the Washington Bosses were telling the press, He’d have won if the Tea Partiers hadn’t shut down the government.
 
Which sounds eminently logical.
 
The Tea Partiers shut down the government, Cuccinelli lost, so Cuccinelli lost because the Tea Partiers shut down the government.
 
The Tea Partiers didn’t take that lying down. They shot back with their own logic: The Washington Bosses didn’t lift a finger to help Cuccinelli, Cuccinelli lost by two points, so Cuccinelli lost because of the Washington Bosses.
 
Now there was one more interesting fact in the press: Cuccinelli’s campaign, Slate.com reported, didn’t poll in the last few weeks of the race.
 
Now whoever heard of a major campaign not polling at the end of the race? That’s political malpractice. So here’s a bit more logic: Cuccinelli didn’t poll, Cuccinelli lost by two points, so Cuccinelli lost because he didn’t poll.
 
Of course, that’s not the whole story but it’s almost surely a reason Cuccinelli lost. Which is being ignored.
 
Instead, both Tea Partiers and Washington Bosses are pointing fingers and serving up explanations that serve one purpose: To hurt their political opponents.
 
And the press, instead of cutting through the political smokescreens, is going right along debating a pair of fictions.
 

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08
My grandmother, years ago, would regularly tell me, Carter, you’ve got your wants and your needs confused.  
 
It turns out reporters have the same problem.
 
What reporters need, just about every day, is a story. And what they want is a crisis to make it an interesting story.
 
Take the newspaper headlines the other morning that roared: A year after Romney’s loss, GOP woes run even deeper.
 
Of course, it would be no story at all to say, A year after Romney loses, no change for the GOP.
 
But to say, A year after Romney loses, GOP hits iceberg – now, that’s a story. And it opens the door to a whole line of good stories such as: GOP Ship Sinks. Or, Hole in GOP ship miraculously patched.
 
So ‘Republicans hit iceberg’ is a big story around Washington – which spawns a kind of mischief. Because, beneath the surface, the political tides haven’t really shifted much one way or the other. We still have an unpopular President. And slightly more unpopular Republican opposition.  And just about every time President Obama climbs into the ring with John Boehner or Mitch McConnell the same old thing happens: Obama wins.
 
So maybe there’s a better storyline that’s been missed – like: Why does Boehner lose? Or: Republicans need new champion – to beat Obama. And think of all the stories that might lead to: New Obama challenger knocked down. New challenger back on his feet. Or maybe even:  New challenger wins round – Obama shaken.
 

 

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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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06
Remember when George W. Bush ran as a “compassionate conservative” in 2000? Ted Cruz could run in 2016 as a “cruel conservative.”
 
The distance between the two Texans shows how far right the Republican Party has gone, thanks to the Tea Party. It’s a hell of a thing when Bush looks good in hindsight.
 
Carter says that 70 percent of Republicans call themselves “conservatives.” Not moderates, not mainstream, but conservative. Presumably, they don’t share other Americans’ antipathy to the Tea Party.
 
Given that 70 percent, how can Chris Christie be the nominee in 2016? Even assuming he overcomes temperament issues and questions about his health, how can any Republican with any hint of “moderate” win a Tea Party gauntlet in the debates and primaries?
 
Republicans like Cruz – and the North Carolina legislature – are on a mission to rid the party and the nation of any compassion whatsoever for people who aren’t rich, white, old and male. They turn on anyone, like a Mitch McConnell, who won’t meet their ever-rising ransom demands.
 
Now the Karl Rove-Chamber of Commerce wing of the party is fighting back. They are putting money behind candidates running against Tea Partiers. There is talk of business-backed GOP primary challenges in North Carolina.
 
Myself, I’m pulling for Cruz and the Tea Party to pull the GOP right over the cliff.

 

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05
The poor Tea Partiers are finding the Republican Establishment in Washington harder to keep ahold of than a greased pig – they cornered the elusive rascals, trying to defund Obamacare, but then the wily Pachyderms slipped through their fingers and now Ted Cruz and the Tea Partiers are taking a pounding, being called pouty children with no respect for the time-honored traditions of Congress and common decencies – like never putting a fellow Republican Congressman on the hot seat.
 
But Ted Cruz and Rand Paul may have lost the battle but won the war.
 
Republicans who vote in primaries loathe Obamacare and, thanks to the virtues of democracy, every GOP Congressman who voted for the deal (to fund Obamacare) has to win a primary in Topeka or Toledo or wherever to continue to be a Washington Republican.
 
So the Pachyderms are taking evasive action – by morphing. They’re no longer Washington Republicans – instead, they’ve announced, they’re now ‘Pro-business Republicans.’ It’s sort of like a leopard changing his spots. Or the polecat who had a PR problem and decided the way to solve it was to declare he was a jaguar.
 
Of course, beneath the surface not much has changed.
 

 

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04
Any Southerner worth his salt, at some point, has come face to face with William Faulkner’s story “The Bear” – about a mammoth, faster than a locomotive bear who roams and rules the last 100 square miles of pure wilderness in Mississippi where the final vestiges of ancient virtues like endurance and sacrifice have not yet been corrupted by the tentacles of civilization.
 
Each fall, every year, the same troop of hunters – a farmer, an aging Confederate General, a banker, a half-breed Indian, an incorrigible redneck and a boy – climb into wagons and roll into the wilderness for a rendezvous with the legendary bear none of them actually expect (and may not even want) to kill.
 
In those days bear hunting required hunting dogs, but no dog in his right mind wanted to go anywhere near that mammoth bear – until, at last, one of the hunters found a fyce with more gumption and courage than good sense.
 
The first time the little dog laid eyes on the bear he lowered his head and charged and the bear, more surprised than alarmed, stopped and turned at bay rising onto his hind legs.
 
The fyce, a paw slap away from doom, was saved.
 
Then, as the giant bear lumbered away, one hunter glanced at the man next to him, nodded down at the still yipping fyce, and grunted, We ain’t got the dawg yet – h’it aint big enough.
 
Up in Washington, President Obama’s the territorial equivalent of that old bear. Two Presidential Elections ago no one thought he’d whip Hillary – who was a Democratic legend in her own right.
 
Then, though no one said it much, a fair amount of folks figured the odds were pretty long against a black man getting elected President – but Obama whipped a war hero and landed in the White House.
 
When 2012 rolled around, just about every Republican guru and savant on TV was prophesying Obama, with his huge disapproval rating, was doomed. Instead Obama whipped Mitt Romney and since then he’s whipped John Boehner and Mitch McConnell in just about every fight with Congress without hardly breaking a sweat.
 
Of course just about everyone has an explanation for why Obama’s whipped every Republican in sight. It’s demographics. Urbanization. Culture. Technology. But in the end, let’s give Obama credit – Republicans failure may be as simple as ‘we ain’t found a dawg big enough yet.’  

 

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04
If Terry McAuliffe wins the Virginia governor’s race, Democrats might want to rethink this campaign finance thing.
 
Public Policy Polling’s final poll shows McAuliffe winning 50-43. But here are the numbers that caught my eye: McAuliffe leads in fundraising $34.4 million to $19.7 million.
 
The New York Times reported, “Armed with a much larger war chest, Mr. McAuliffe has battered his opponent, Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, with a barrage of negative ads and has put himself in a position that would have surprised many Democrats just a year ago: ahead in the polls just two days from the election.”
 
McAuliffe is as well-connected a Democrat as there is in the country. He’s best friends with Bill, Hillary and Barack. He’s a former DNC chairman. He’s raised and given money all over the country. So he has a lot of IOUs to cash.
 
Also, Virginia has a no-limits, no-holds barred campaign finance system. One donor gave McAuliffe’s campaign a half-million dollars.
 
Democrats fear the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down limits on how much donors can give a campaign. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, Democrats. Especially at a time when Tea Party candidates are scaring Chamber of Commerce/business donors.

 

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01
Whatever else it does, Obamacare drives Republicans into a frenzy of hype, hypocrisy, irrationality and overreaction.
 
Exhibit A: Republicans in Congress are outraged that website glitches prevent Americans from signing up for a program Republicans compare to slavery. Why are they complaining? They should take a cue from George Holding, take a nap and chill out.
 
Exhibit B: Republican governors who probably know better (like Pat McCrory and unlike Ohio’s John Kasich) reject Medicaid expansion, even though it would help millions of Americans and save hundreds of millions of dollars. Politically, the governors have no choice. They’re terrified of the Tea Party.
 
Exhibit C: Obamacare is a classic Republican policy, hatched by the Heritage Foundation, once championed by Newt Gingrich and put into law (no matter how much he denies it) by Mitt Romney.
 
How is it a Republican policy? Well, it starts by saying: no more free ride; everybody has to get insurance. The rest of us don’t have to pay all your medical bills. (See: “takers.”)
 
Obamacare achieves that goal through another thing Republicans should like: the free market. Instead of government providing the insurance (which would be “socialism” like Medicare) you have to buy insurance from an insurance company.
 
Finally, expanding Medicaid means people can afford to get primary and preventative care, which is cheaper, instead of waiting until they’re really sick and going to the emergency room, which is really expensive – and we all end up paying for.
 
We have national health insurance now. Your taxes, insurance premiums and medical bills already have a hidden surcharge that pays the bills for people who don’t have insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.
 
If Obamacare fails, the logical next step is to put everybody on Medicaid/Medicare. I half-jokingly suggested that in a blog last week. Then two conservatives said the same thing: Marc Landry in the N&O and Ross Douthat in The New York Times. (Needless to say, I’m reconsidering my position.)
 
All this shows how Obama Derangement Syndrome is driving the Republican Party farther and farther to the right – and farther out of touch with more Americans. Now, Democrats have plenty of problems, but they look much more rational right now than Republicans.

 

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30
Carter likes to say that politics is an exercise in human folly and error. Both parties seem set on proving it in Washington.
 
A few weeks ago, President Obama’s job ratings fell when the news was focused on Syria. But Washington Republicans came to his rescue. They shut down the government. Everybody forgot about Syria.
 
Now it was the Republicans’ turn to get whacked. Their ratings plunged as the shutdown dragged on. Obama’s ratings rose – not because of anything he did, but because he looked better than the Republicans.
 
Finally, Republicans surrendered on the shutdown. The spotlight immediately turned to Obamacare’s botched rollout. Once again, Obama has been taking the hits.
 
Not to worry. Congressional Republicans are riding to the rescue. They’re working themselves into a frothing frenzy attacking Obamacare. They look like hypocrites, complaining about problems implementing a law they worked so hard – in Washington and the states – to sabotage. Plus, they don’t realize how mean and hateful they look to voters who don’t suffer from Obama Derangement Syndrome.
 
Politicians, especially in Congress, are incapable of just shutting up when silence would be the best strategy. An old political maxim says, “When your opponent is shooting himself in the foot, get out of the line of fire.”

 

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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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