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Entries for April 2010

30
Politicians are nothing if not creative and what they’re most creative about is making themselves look good. With the ‘Great Recession’ roaring along some politicians in state government decided paying UNC-TV to run programs to tell voters what a great job they’re doing spending money was a first rate idea.
 
You’d think the state’s ‘Golden Leaf Foundation,’ which Marc Basnight, Mike Easley and Company set up to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars in tobacco settlement money (and fund Democratic legislators’ favorite pork-barrel projects), would be happy to just go on doing good deeds. But, not so. The ‘Foundation’ felt the need to pay UNC-TV $300,000 to tell everyone about its good deeds.
 
And it worked. Public TV took the cash and ran glowing reports about the politicians without mentioning it was, in effect, paid for them.
 
I guess on UNC TV’s side of the table the logic is simple: They got the cash. The politicians got the ads. Everyone was content. Which makes common sense. But imagine the uproar if, say, Exxon paid CBS to run glowing news reports about its environmental record.
 
When the whole thing landed in the News and Observer UNC-TV went into defense mode, firing back it’s doing its job as “an information provider.” Anyone want to bet when UNC-TV will be airing negative information about the ‘Golden Leaf Foundation?’
 
In the past couple of years the politicians got their tentacles into NCSU (in the form of former Governor Easley’s wife’s $850,000 job as a ‘professor’) – until UNC President Erskine Bowles stepped in to put an end to that bit of ‘pay to play.’ Everyone from the Governor to the Attorney General has used government money to pay for TV ads on everything from the ACC Tournament to the Home and Garden Channel to make themselves look good. And now they’ve got their mitts into public television.
 

 

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30
Here are the numbers that should scare North Carolina Democrats: 1.4 million and 47-18.
 
The 1.4 million is the number of voters registered unaffiliated. That’s nearly a fourth of the state’s 6.1 million registered votes.
 
And 47-18 is how much those independent voters favor Republicans over Democrats in legislative races this year, according to Public Policy Polling. The party preference for Congress is virtually the same: 46-19.
 
These independent voters decide elections in North Carolina. And their ranks are growing. In fact, unaffiliated is the only part of the electorate that’s growing.
 
The number of unaffiliated voters has grown by about 20,000 since November 2008. At the same time, the number of registered Democrats has dropped about 110,000 (to 2.75 million) and the number of Republicans has dropped about 70,000 (to 1.93 million). The total number of registered voters has dropped by about 150,000, to 6.1 million.
 
A loyal Democrat might argue that Republicans aren’t looking so good either. But unlike 2008 – when independents voted for Obama, Hagan and Perdue – they are mad at Democrats this time.
 
PPP found Obama’s ratings among them at 63-33 negative and Perdue’s, 56-23 negative.
 
This is a recipe for disaster.
 

 

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29
At last the Democratic Senate primary gets ugly.
 
Usually the negatives start flying long before the final week. And it’s always the same scenario: A lagging candidate decides – or gets persuaded – to lash out at the leaders.
 
So it is with Ken Lewis.
 
He has a radio ad attacking Cal Cunningham on the Banking Commission bonuses. Elaine Marshall’s campaign will love that, since she – not Lewis – will benefit.
 
Then Lewis accused both the Cunningham and Marshall campaigns of playing the race card.
 
His evidence: A Marshall adviser said Cunningham couldn’t turn out black votes in the fall. And a Cunningham adviser said it’s tough to raise money when you run against a woman and an African-American.
 
That’s thin stuff, by race-card standards.
 
And pretty nonsensical statements by all three campaigns.
 
Pardon me, but I don’t see much here that will encourage Democrats about the general election.

 

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28
Three headlines capture three scenarios in the Democratic Senate primary:
 
Marshall looks for another statewide win in Senate primary.” (From WRAL, whose poll has her leading.)
 
“Dem Senate primary in North Carolina could be headed to runoff.” (From The Hill in Washington.)
 
“Poll: Cunningham Closes the Gap in North Carolina.” (From Congressional Quarterly.)
 
Any one of the three scenarios could happen: Marshall wins, Cunningham wins or they’re in a runoff. But a runoff is unlikely, since no poll shows Ken Lewis and the other candidates getting a total of 20 percent.
 
Marshall’s new ad is clearly a low-budget production, but her campaign has a clear message: She’s fighting Wall Street, banks, insurance companies and lobbyists.
 
Her campaign is probably happy with the big headlines about her fining super-lobbyist Don Beason. But some of her supporters complain that the Secretary of State’s office has done little over the years to publicize her “standing up.”

 

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28
The other day there was a minor eruption in the press when a group of Republicans got mad at former Republican Co-Speaker of the House Richard Morgan for criticizing Governor Perdue and Cabinet Secretary Lanier Cansler for passing out no bid contracts. Now if that seems unusual it took the Governor (who laughed and told the press, Well miracles do happen) by surprise too. Here’s the ad – by Richard Morgan – that led an intrepid band of pachyderms to come to Governor Perdue’s defense.
 

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27
There’s a political war going on in the Republican Primary for State House down in Jacksonville. Martin Aragona, a former County Commissioner, is running as is Phil Shepard who, it turns out, is supported by the local leaders of the Perdue-Easley political machine (including a former Easley Highway Commissioner).

At their first debate Aragona asked Shepard if he supported a $4 million Sales Tax increase (that’s on the ballot for voters to approve on May 4th ). Shepard answered, Yes sir, and said he’d be voting for the tax increase, which may have sat well with Shepard’s Perdue supporters but landed him in a quagmire with Republicans because of a radio ad he’s running.
 
Here’s Martin Aragona’s ad:
 
 

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27
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26
The money-starved Democratic U.S. Senate primary limps to a finish next Tuesday – with a runoff possible and Richard Burr sitting on $5 million for the fall.
 
Elaine Marshall’s campaign promises a healthy TV buy this week. They hope it will check Cal Cunningham’s comparative blitz of ads.
 
Her campaign even talks hopefully of winning 40 percent and avoiding a runoff.
 
Here’s the math: Ken Lewis and the minor candidates have to get more than 20 percent combined to prevent a runoff.
 
I think that’s unlikely. Lewis has little money for TV. And I doubt his numerous endorsements will deliver many votes.
 
So the only question may be whether Marshall’s early lead in name recognition – and whatever TV she puts on – can slow down Cal.
 
In a low-turnout race, a few thousand votes either way could give Cunningham or Marshall a clean win.

 

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23
It’s no secret I’ve been supporting my old friend Bernie Reeves in his race against Congressman Brad Miller. Here’s Bernie’s ad:

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22
Let’s look at two sets of numbers important to Governor Perdue: her budget and her polls.
 
Her proposed budget is a solid response to a stinky mess. She spread around the pain. And she still made important investments in economic development, education and human services.
 
She deserves credit for keeping the state on track in tough times.
 
As for polls, a radio interviewer tried this week to get me to echo the chorus of gloom about Perdue’s drop in Public Policy Polling’s surveys.
 
I balked. After all, her PPP numbers are no worse than Richard Burr’s. Big difference: Perdue’s not up for reelection this year.
 
And a Rasmussen poll this week looked even better for her: 45 percent approval.
 
The fact is, most every governor across the country has bad poll numbers. They’re governing in a toxic climate: bad economy, bad budgets and voters in a bad mood.
 
Perdue’s reelection campaign is a long way away, and her budget should give Democrats heart – and hope for the future.

 

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