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22
As good citizens, we all know that these two truths are self-evident in politics. First, as both editorial writers and Walmart moms agreed in the paper today, big money and “assault ads” are bad. Second, (as everybody but the Republican legislature, Governor McCrory and the State Board of Elections apparently think) higher voter turnout is good.
 
But suppose the thing we believe is bad produces the thing we believe is good? Suppose more money and more “assault ads” actually increase voter turnout? Suppose more “bad” produces more “good”?
 
Damon Circosta at the Fletcher Foundation started this with a Facebook post yesterday: "Serious question: with a 100 million dollar senate race, awareness of the election has to be pretty high compared to other recent midterms. If (generally speaking) higher turnout is said to benefit Dems, and the supposition that the sheer volume of ads both positive and negative cancel out each other's message, could such unprecedented spending, even if half of it is aimed at defeating Hagan, reached a point where all of this advertising simply serves as a turnout driver and as such a net positive for the incumbent?"
 
Laura Leslie at WRAL responded, “Actually, negative ads tend to suppress turnout, not drive it. Rs are already more likely to turn out for a midterm than Ds. I don't think it will turn out to be a net positive for Hagan. Research is mixed but mostly shows that negative advertising increases turnout, though not by much.”
 
Then the political science professionals jumped in.
 
Steve Greene at N.C. State said the research is “inconclusive and contradictory.” He cited one article that “claims that there is no demobilizing effect of negative ads.”
 
Will Cubbison at George Washington University gave us some interesting stats: “For comparisons sake...1984 with Helms-Hunt (almost this much money, highly negative ads) had 69% turnout. 1980 had 67% and 1988 had 62% so severe limits to effects.”
 
Now, I’m not a political scientist, but it does look to me like turnout was higher in 1984.
 
And if turnout is higher this year – and if your candidate wins – are big money and negative ads really so bad?

 

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17
You have to give Kay Hagan credit: A year ago the Swing Voters were ready to roll down the track and vote her out of office – and for a year Hagan kept those voters out of Thom Tillis’ camp.
 
The one big change in the Senate race – Tillis’ rising unpopularity with Independents – was all Kay Hagan’s doing.
 
On the other hand, Hagan had problems of her own: She’d been sitting at 43% or 44% or 45% of the vote for months. She’d kept Tillis from moving up. But she hadn’t moved up either. She was just as stuck as Tillis. Only in a different way.
 
The other day I had a repairman in the office and he said, You’re in politics?
 
I said, I’m afraid I have to plead guilty to that.
 
And he said, You know, we’re in a mess. We’re headed for a war and we ain’t got a leader in sight.
 
He meant ISIS.
 
And, maybe, that’s what’s going to tip the scales in the Senate race – a threat no one even knew existed six months ago may provide the impetus that moves Independent voters to support either Hagan or Tillis.
 
Of course, there could be other wild cards too.
 
Ebola.
 
Obama’s popularity dropping.
 
Or either Hagan or Tillis stumbling.
 
Any one of those events could tip the scales.

 

 

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15
Stop the presses. I have something nice to say about Governor McCrory.
 
Unlike his Republican colleagues Thom Tillis, Phil Berger and Dan Forrest, McCrory said he will respect and obey the court decision on gay marriage, even if he doesn’t like it.
 
Good for him.
 
But why? I asked a couple of smart political people. One (a kind-hearted soul) said: “I don’t think he’s a mean person at all.” Another (a cynical sort) offered: “He needs every vote in 2016.”
 
Here’s a third theory: Duke Energy. Yes, his former employer, which may be his biggest obstacle to reelection because of the coal ash spill.
 
The theory: working almost 30 years for a large corporation taught McCrory the importance of diversity and tolerance. It’s not that corporations are nice people, it’s that they value smart, hard-working employees regardless of sexual orientation.
 
Whatever the reason, McCrory’s stance is a welcome change from fulminations about “activist judges,” “judicial tyranny” and “60 percent of North Carolinians voted for the amendment.”
 
Well, 60 years ago, 60 percent of North Carolina voters would have voted for racial segregation. That didn’t make it morally right or constitutional. The reason we have judges and courts, as the conservatives usually remind us, is to protect individual liberty against the tyranny of the majority.
 
So it is here.

 

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14
If you think about it DENR’s proposal was pretty odd.
 
Last winter, when tons of water from a coal ash pond poured into the Dan River, there was consternation and gnashing of teeth. The U.S. Attorney started investigating. The Governor ordered every coal ash pond cleaned up. The legislature said Amen.
 
Then, with hardly a soul noticing, last August DENR signed off on a plan to clean up coal ash ponds – by dumping the water in the ponds directly into rivers and lakes.
 
Which sounded, more or less, like what had happened on the Dan River.
 
Which was odd.
 
And what happened next was even odder.
 
EPA nixed  DENR’s plan (and the controversy exploded in the newspapers again) then DENR announced it had simply been following orders (or an Executive Order) from the Governor. And did an about face.
 
In other words, DENR threw the Governor under the bus – which is something you don’t see happen in state government every day.

 

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13
First ISIS. Then Ebola. Now men marring men and women marrying women. What’s next? “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!”?
 
More to the point, will video and big Page One pictures of newlywed men kissing each other sway this election?
 
Consider three things here.
 
First, yes, Amendment One passed with 60 percent of the vote. Two years ago. In a primary election with no big race. This is a general election with a big US Senate race and a lot of hot legislative races. Public opinion has moved fast since then, and same-sex marriages are happening all over the country.
 
Second, some number of the votes for Amendment One were African-American voters. They are more religious than most voters, they go to church more and their churches often are evangelical. Quite a few black preachers preached against same-sex marriage in 2010. It’s safe to say these voters will not be voting Republican in 2014.
 
Third, what’s the impact in precisely the urban areas with big college populations where sentiment runs strongest against the Republican legislature? Will these younger, college-educated voters stay home now, content that all is well? Or will this just galvanize an even bigger vote as they see that change is within their reach?
 
My guess is that same-sex marriage is at worst a wash for Democrats and very possibly a plus.

 

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07
Some North Carolina politicians sound today just like their predecessors in the 1950s, railing against the Supreme Court and rallying behind “state’s rights.”
 
Then it was racial discrimination. Today it’s same-sex marriage. Then – as today – the politicians were on the wrong side of history.
 
They say the state’s ban on gay marriages passed with 60 percent of the vote. Yes it did. In a primary two years ago. Want to try it again in a general election?
 
We may. We should see a sharp contrast tonight between Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan. If voters vote on this one issue – and some will – they’ll have a clear choice.
 
Yesterday, Tillis stood united with Senator Berger (for the first time in a while). They promised to resist the court ruling. Meanwhile, Governor McCrory say he would “respect” the decision, even though he didn’t agree with it. (Any bets on whether we will see any “recalculating” – as the GPS lady says – from the Gov?)
 
Last night, it was striking how gingerly both Renee Ellmers and Clay Aiken handled the issue. And Aiken reminded voters that Ellmers opposed the ban in 2012, as did he.
 
While tonight’s debate won’t provide nearly as entertaining overall as Aiken vs. Ellmers, this exchange could prove decisive November 4.

 

 

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25
Give Governor McCrory credit for proposing something big and bold, a $1 billion transportation bond issue. It sounds like a stimulus program, but that would be the kiss of death in the Republican legislature. He may find himself needing some Democratic allies.
 
He and Secretary Tata will have to answer a lot of questions: how to pay for it, can the state afford it and, of course, why these specific projects?
 
Like every Governor, McCrory promised to take politics out of transportation decisions. Here’s the definition of “politics”: a road somebody else wants. And the definition of “real need”: a road you want.
 
Speaking of needs, why was there no mention of I-95? It’s the most congested, dangerous major road in the state.
 
How can the state seriously pursue a large auto manufacturer without upgrading I-95? The first thing a big plant like that needs, especially if it’s near Rocky Mount, is access up and down the East Coast.
 
Let’s get on with it. Start your engines, warm up the road graders and load up the dump trucks.

 

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24
The other day our top General went over to the Senate and said turning the Iraqi army into a real fighting force may not be possible ;--then he said no one knows who the ‘moderate’ Syrian Rebels will attack once they’re armed – they might attack ISIS or might attack Bashar Assad and, regardless of who they attack, arming just 5000 ‘moderate’ Syrians (as the President proposes) isn’t going to be nearly enough to whip anyone.
 
Meanwhile the same day, over in Iraq, the success of our bombing campaign was limited to blowing up a truck, an artillery piece, and two small boats on the Euphrates River.
 
This is an odd – but familiar – picture.
 
It’s beginning to look a lot like we may be getting into another ‘political’ war: If the President does nothing he gets pilloried but if he does what it takes to destroy ISIS (by putting boots on the ground) he gets run out of town on a rail – so he’s sailing down the middle ground uneasily doing what’s popular and avoiding what’s unpopular which may come back to haunt him – like it has other Presidents.

 

 

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23

Two things happened the other day: One nasty. The other confounding.
 
First ISIS posted a video on the Internet telling President Obama (in no uncertain terms) to watch out – it is going to target every American soldier he sends to Iraq.
 
Second, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, our top General, added a new wrinkle to the meaning of the words ‘no boots on the ground’ – telling Congress it may just turn out, one of these days, that he might recommend American soldiers join Iraqi troops in “attacks.”  That wouldn’t, he added , mean GI’s would be in combat. Instead, they’d simply be “close combat advisors.”
 
Now think about that.
 
It’s a pretty bad thing to send a soldier into combat alongside a brigade of his buddies – who’ll stick with him through thick and thin.
 
But it’s a lot worse thing to send him into combat with a brigade of Iraqis – when that happens a ‘close combat advisor’ could wind up alone in a foxhole with no buddies in sight.

 

 

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22
The way the President figures it the Iraqi army’s going to supply the ‘boots on the ground’ to whip ISIS but the other day, up in Congress, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said half the Iraqi army isn’t fit to fight and the other half will have to be rebuilt “with U.S. training and equipment” before it can fight.
 
Part One of the President’s plan to whip ISIS is bombing – and that’s going fine.
 
But Part Two – putting Iraqi boots on the ground – just took a nosedive.

 

 

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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. 
 
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