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Entries for March 2012

30
Public Policy Polling has found that people are confused about the marriage amendment: “Oh, it covers civil unions, too?” Plus, it’s so badly worded it could end up hurting widowed seniors and even victims of domestic abuse.
 
Let’s simplify this message. Just tell people to vote NO.
 
A no vote is always easier to get than a yes vote. You only need one reason to vote no, even if you have 100 reasons to vote yes.
 
A simple campaign will work best: “Vote AGAINST the marriage amendment.”
 
A bit of a head fake might even work with conservative voters: “Vote AGAINST the gay-marriage amendment.”

 

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Posted in: Issues
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29
Sometimes politicians are just plain silly.
 
This morning it appears Paul Coble woke up in a pique and right off ripped off an email lighting into George Holding.
 
“George Holding” Coble wrote, “doesn’t smile much. But $214,000 in hard, cold special interest cash has him smiling like the Cheshire car – ear to ear."
 
Then Coble lights into The American Foundations Committee – which is supporting Holding – calling it a mean, vile, nasty special interest.
 
And exactly what special interest does The American Foundations Committee represent? Well, it lists its 13 donors on its website. Five have the name Holding. Eight are George Holding’s relatives. And five are his personal friends.
 
There’s not a labor union or a real special interest anywhere in sight. In fact, the only interest these folks have in common is they’re all family or friends of George Holding’s.
 
As a County Commissioner, Paul Coble’s voted for budgets with $190,000,000 in unfunded liabilities. But, now, says he opposes unfunded liabilities.
 
Coble’s run for office nine times and taken thousands of dollars in special interest contributions. But now says George Holding’s family and friends are a special interest.
 
It’s just plain silly.
 
 

 

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29
Pat McCrory’s much-ballyhooed education platform reads like a compilation of every cliché and buzzword of the last three decades.
 
This tweet from the McCrory campaign especially struck me: “3rd grade is a critical year for reading. We are not doing our children favors by socially promoting them to 4th grade.”
 
Right you are, Pat. Which is exactly why in 1977 Governor Hunt pushed through a Primary Reading Program. It put teacher aides – Hunt then called them “reading aides” – into every first-, second- and third-grade classroom in every school in the state. The goal: make sure every child could read before they left the third grade.
 
Guess what? It worked. And guess what else? The last legislature – led by McCrory’s Republican friends – cut many of the aides.

 

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28
Win or lose in the Supreme Court, President Obama has already lost in the court of public opinion. Polls show that two-thirds of Americans want at least some of Obamacare repealed.
 
If he loses the election in November, he’ll always wonder why he staked his presidency on an idea he opposed in 2008: the individual mandate.
 
That has become the lightning rod. And it helped his rabid opponents paint him as a big-government guy.
 
In an era when people are skeptical about complicated, big-government solutions, Obama took a complicated, big-government approach to health-care reform.
 
The last Democratic president famously declared that “the era of big government is over.” That was after his wife’s complicated, big-government solution to health care failed.
 
Maybe Obama should have taken smaller bites: pre-existing conditions, limits on insurance companies. Polls show high levels of support there.
 
Inevitably, some Democrat will say: “We just need to do a better job getting our message out and explaining the plan.”
 
Wrong. No amount of explaining will solve this problem. Americans just don’t want something big – unless it delivers them a nice present quick. Like Social Security, Medicaid or the prescription drug benefit.
 
Some Democrats, James Carville notably, argue that Obama will win by losing in court. Carville wrote in Politico: “I think that this (losing in the court) will be the best thing that ever happen to the Democratic party because health care costs are gonna escalate unbelievably.”
 
But I don’t see the public blaming the court for high health care costs. After all, they don’t believe the plan holds down costs. And it’s never good for a President to lose a fight – anywhere, anytime.
 
Actually, Obama could lose if he wins. If the court somehow upholds his law, it then becomes the big issue in the general election. With its poll numbers, that’s bad.

 

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28
There’s a whiff of Mitt Romney about Thom Tillis. Witness his prediction that the gay-marriage amendment, which he supports, will be repealed in 20 years.
 
Was he playing to a college crowd? Once again signaling he’s not really comfortable with the right-wing social issues? Or was it a classic political gaffe – when you catch flak for telling the truth?
 
Rick Santorum memorably said of Romney that he’s been on both sides of every public issue for the last 10 years. Tillis doesn’t have that track record, but he has wandered off the reservation a couple of times.
 
Plus, Tillis and Romney are both management consultants: facts and figures guys. Card-carrying members of the reality-based community.
 
Here’s the fundamental political strength both of them have in a general election – and their fundamental weakness in a Republican primary: They strike me as the kind of Republicans I might like. That’s because I don’t believe they believe all that social-issue stuff. And that’s a mortal sin with the conservative Christian wing of their party.

 

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27

The TAPster who wrote the blog below reflects what several Democrats have said privately about Bob Etheridge. If Bob’s campaign or a supporter will respond, I’ll post it.

 
“For the sake of Democrats everywhere in North Carolina, Bobby Etheridge must step aside.
 
“He needs to leave the governor’s race to someone who has what good ole Bobby doesn’t: a chance to win statewide.
 
“Etheridge sees and believes positive poll numbers for his primary candidacy, and has been trapped into dreaming that he can extend his political career. But polls lie, pollsters lie and those who are polled lie.
 
“He might win the primary, and he would make a good governor. He was a good legislator, school superintendent and Member of Congress who has done much for the state, and can do more in a non-elected role.
 
“But he can’t win in November. All the crap that contributed to his Congressional reelection defeat will contribute to his defeat in the fall.
 
“Etheridge’s strongest primary opponent is Walter Dalton, who has too much class to denigrate Etheridge publicly or run negative ads about his fellow Democrat. The third candidate is a trial lawyer with more money than scruples and good sense, and who will go nasty quickly to force a runoff. With Etheridge out of the race and working for Dalton, the chance of a suicidal runoff is eliminated.
 
“Etheridge should never have entered the race, and now needs to get out.”
 

 

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27
Check out this new website for political junkies: ncpol.com. It’s run by Raleigh lawyer Hart Miles.
 
Its greatest virtue is that it’s fun. Its greatest drawback is an interview with me. But you can also see a terrific video with a dead-on Dick Vitale impersonator, Gerry Jacobs of Raleigh.
 
Watch “Dickie V” break down politics the way he breaks down basketball.

 

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Posted in: General, Raleigh
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26
A gun store in eastern North Carolina uses its electronic billboard to run a mix of hard-right political messages and gun-sale pitches. One message reads: “Work harder. Millions on welfare depend on you.”
 
When it comes to health care, the billboard could read: “Work harder. Millions without insurance depend on you.”
 
But therein lies the irony: Republicans don’t want to pay for welfare. But they apparently do want to pay for people who don’t have health insurance.
 
We all pay higher taxes and higher insurance rates to subsidize people without health insurance. Presumably, that’s OK with conservatives. No need for personal responsibility here.
 
Originally, conservatives came up with the insurance mandate. That was back in the 1990s, when they were fighting HillaryCare.
 
Today, they’re fighting anything and everything that President Obama is for. And, ironically, Obama was against the mandate when Hillary proposed it in 2008.
 
So, now, the fate of Obama’s administration may hinge on what the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a Republican idea that he once opposed.

 

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24
Carter and I were doing our dog-and-pony show for a real-estate group – telling them what happens inside campaigns, taking potshots at each other and generally trying to lighten up a crowd that had just endured speeches from the gubernatorial candidates.
 
During the Q&A, we got a familiar question: “Why can’t candidates be positive instead of attacking each other? If I was being interviewed for a job, I wouldn’t attack the other people being interviewed.”
 
We launched into our usual spirited defense of negatives (they work, they are generally more truthful than positive ads, etc.) But it was best said in a recent essay by Paul Begala, the Democratic consultant turned TV pundit, titled “Why We Need More Negative Political Ads.”
 
It’s worth reading, and it offers great insight about the genre. A couple of highlights:
 
“I love negative ads. When I see a positive ad, even one from a candidate I support, my reaction often ranges from bored to annoyed. But show me a negative ad—even one against a candidate I support—and my blood starts to race….
 
“The Founding Fathers loved going negative. Heck, the Declaration of Independence is one long negative ad….
 
“So the next time a public moralist starts lamenting the role of negative advertising in our political system, just explain that it’s an outgrowth of the stakes involved. As the old saying has it, politics ain’t beanbag—and a political campaign isn’t selling soft drinks. The outcome matters—and influencing it is worth every negative word or image a candidate and his team can muster.”

 

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23
Back in 1976 when Ronald Reagan was running in the North Carolina Primary, Arthur Finkelstein (Reagan’s pollster) hammered into my head the importance of time in campaigns, saying a hundred times, Campaigns have three resources: People, money and time. You can hire more people and raise more money but you can’t make one second more time.
 
And that’s one of the oddest facts about a political campaign – it starts and ends then vanishes.
 
I don’t recall exactly when George Holding announced but it was around August 1st – which meant he had exactly 281 days to the election on May 8 and every lost day can never be regained – and that’s the one thing I see campaigns mismanage most: Time.
 
Negative attacks are an example.
 
Paul Coble launched the first negative attack – Coble’s radio ad against George Holding – of the Congressional campaign two weeks ago.
 
That meant George Holding had 9 weeks – until May – to debunk Coble’s attack and if he sat contemplating his navel for two weeks he’d lose 25% of his time.
 
This week George Holding criticized Paul Coble for supporting ‘unfunded liabilities’ as a Wake County Commissioner. Coble immediately hollered, That’s not true. I never supported an unfunded liability – which leaves Holding 7 weeks to prove he’s right and Coble’s wrong.
 
Now, 7 weeks may sound like a lot of time but when you’re trying to prove to 60,000 voters you’re right while your opponent’s hollering bloody murder, screaming you’re dead wrong – it’s not.
 
Everyday George Holding isn’t explaining that Paul Coble’s dodge on unfunded liabilities is the same dodge the Washington politicians use when they talk about Medicare and Social Security’s unfunded liabilities is a lost day.
 
That’s a reality people who’ve been through political campaigns live with and never escape – but, for other people, it’s an oddly elusive fact.
 
Businessmen, for example, face all kinds of deadlines. But they hardly ever face a deadline when their world ends.
 
On August 1 a businessman may set a goal to sell more widgets than his competition by May 8 – and he may fail by 5%. But the result isn’t Armageddon. Instead, he goes to work to outsell his competition in the next business cycle.
 
But in a campaign if you’re 5% short in the primary you don’t pass go, you don’t move on, you’re done.
 
And that’s why time mismanagement can be lethal to a candidate.
 
So, if you’ve got to answer an attack do it quickly.
 
And if you’ve got a message to get to voters – like proving Paul Coble supported unfunded liabilities just like the Washington politicians – don’t spend two weeks contemplating your navel.
 

 

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