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Entries for May 2012

31
A couple of Republican friends confess to their nightmare scenario: a collapse by both Mitt Romney and Pat McCrory.
 
Conservative Republicans have long worried that Romney might fail to stir the base. That turnout was key to the 2010 election and the gay-marriage amendment.
 
Now McCrory’s petty, panicked and petulant mishandling of the Tree.com ad has them doubly worried.
 
A Democrat who supports George Holding noted that, even in a heavily Republican district, he doesn’t want to contemplate what happens if the top of the ticket goes south.
 
That could put supposedly safe legislative seats within Democratic reach.
 
Stranger things have happened in politics.

 

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30
Before the legislators trooped back to town the News and Observer ran an ‘expose’ about how public hospitals receive millions of dollars in tax breaks to help them care for the indigent but how those tax breaks put millions more in the hospitals’ pockets than they are spending on the poor.
 
Governor Perdue, when the newspaper finished its expose, gingerly dipped her toe into the water by proposing spending $100,000 on a study of how to simplify hospital bills – which was simply an exercise in political P.R. so Perdue could say she was doing something while doing hardly anything and all it would cost taxpayers was $100,000. And she wouldn’t offend the powerful Hospital Association Lobby.
 
Then the Republicans arrived in town and killed Perdue’s study which is just as well but what about those loopholes? No one – Democrat or Republican – is lifting a finger to tackle the Hospital Lobby.
 

 

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30
Political consultants have a way of getting carried away and saying things they quickly regret. Believe me, I’ve been there.
 
So it was with Dustin Ingalls, assistant director of Public Policy Polling, who told a Cumberland County Democratic group:
 
"We have to absolutely eviscerate McCrory….It's going to have to be a very negative campaign."
 
Just before that, McCrory’s ad man, Fred Davis, got his dose of a media spanking when his slash-and-burn memo on attacking President Obama went public.
 
Consultants have a stock answer when they hear complaints about negative campaigns. They shake their heads patiently and say something like: “Well, voters always say they don’t like negative ads, but they always pay attention to them.”
 
Which is why some consultants strive to prove they’re the toughest, meanest SOB in the political valley. Sort of like young guns out to prove they’re the fastest gun in the Old West.
 
Voters, of course, recognize a negative ad when they see one. Which may be why Karl Rove & Co. rejected the scorched-earth approach in their “Basketball” ad for Crossroads GPS. Rather than rip out Obama’s throat, they go for a kinder, gentler tone. They acknowledge that voters had good reason to vote for him in 2008, but they suggest that the voter is now feeling let down and disappointed.
 
That might strike just the right note with swing voters. And cut through the poison.
 
A lot of consultants can make predictable negative ads. Few can make really good negative ads. And fewer still can make the most powerful thing in politics: a great positive ad.

 

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29
This time Mitt Romney has gone too far.
 
He has sunk to the lowest, basest political attack ever seen in our country. His latest negative assault on President Obama goes beyond anything the birthers, the haters and the Jeremiah Wright-baiters ever thought of.
 
Romney attacked the President for playing golf.
 
Romney’s campaign went so far as to calculate exactly how many holes Obama has played since taking the oath of office: 1,710.
 
Isn’t it time for America’s golfers to stand up to this kind of politics – and defend the value of a President playing golf?
 
Romney doesn’t play golf. Here are two Presidents who didn’t play: Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter.
 
Dwight Eisenhower played lots of golf. Democrats criticized him for a “36-hole work week.” And Ike gave us eight years of peace and prosperity. Maybe there’s a connection.
 
Maybe golf’s gifts are just what a President needs.
 
Like a few hours spent relaxing with friends, enjoying nature and escaping jangling phones, carping politicians and nerve-wracking crises.
 
Like a game that reminds you of the folly of human striving, the inevitability of life’s unpredictable breaks and bounces, and respect for the rules and courtesies.
 
President Obama gets that. Mitt Romney doesn’t. Case closed.

 

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29
Back in the old days when Marc Basnight and Tony Rand ran the General Assembly a cohort of Democratic lobbyists who controlled scads of money their clients could give candidates had the legislature wired up;--though no one quite realized it at the time that world came crashing down on Election Day in 2010 when the Democrats lost their majority.
 
But no sooner had all that Democrat ‘wiring’ melted then a new cohort of lobbyists with Republican leanings descended on the legislature and the ‘car inspections bill’ says a lot about what’s happened since.
 
The bill to end mandatory inspections of new cars was a Republicans’ dream. It was less regulation. Lower fees. Less government. It stopped government taking money from one group and giving it to another. It was practical. Made common sense. And even the press liked it.
 
And it never got out of committee.
 
It was killed dead as a doornail by lobbyists for people who do car inspections.
 
As one retired legislator said, The legislature’s been re-wired.
 

 

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29
Carter pointed out (“Counting His Luck Stars,” below) how Pat McCrory unwisely opened himself up to a counterstrike by Democratic lawyers.
 
In that same press conference, McCrory unwisely picked another fight: with the media. The N&O reported that “McCrory chastised reporters at his news conference, saying their stations should pull the ad.”
 
He told them: “Many of you are making money off these ads, and your salary is being paid by these ads. You may have a conflict of interest on this issue. Maybe you ought to interview yourself at the same time.”
 
Three striking things there. First, it’s one thing to criticize “the media,” or “liberal editors.” It’s another thing to go after reporters personally. Not smart.
 
Second, once again (see my earlier blog, “Thin Skin”), McCrory signals that he doesn’t handle the heat of a campaign well.
 
Third, he shows a striking defensiveness about this Tree.com matter.
 
And he ensured that it will stay squarely in the spotlight for some time to come. That’s bad political judgment.
 
Suddenly, Democrats smell blood.

 

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29
Not all the spin in politics comes out of the mouths of politicians;―just about every day or so there’s a poll in the News and Observer and the N&O is pretty careful to identify PPP as a ‘left-leaning’ pollster but PPP’s pollsters will also argue their politics don’t interfere with their polling or, in other words, when you’re reading a PPP poll you’re not reading Democratic ‘spin’ you’re reading an unbiased poll that happened to be taken by a Democrat.
 
So how well are PPP’s  pollsters doing when it comes to walking the line between being ‘left-leaning Democrats’ and providing the newspapers objective polling?
 
The other day Dustin Ingalis, one of the PPP’s pollsters, went down to Fayetteville and explained to the local Democratic Men’s Club what the Democrats need to do to defeat Pat McCrory this fall – he said, “To win… we have to absolutely eviscerate McCrory… we have to just slash McCrory… death by a thousand cuts.”
 
Here’s the rub: Next time these boys do a poll on the Governor’s race should the newspapers report it as unbiased polling done by a Democrat or as Democratic spin done by a ‘left-leaning pollster’ out to ‘eviscerate Pat McCrory’?
 

 

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28
I opened the newspaper the other morning and stared at the headline, Afghan War to end by 2014, and thought, How could anyone know that? Imagine opening the newspaper one May morning in 1943 and reading: ‘War to end by 1945’ – you’d have thought someone had lost their mind.
 
But, of course, the headline has a kind of perverse logic behind it. Because this isn’t 1943 and we no longer fight wars the way we did seventy years ago, and I reckon we ought to just say a prayer and be thankful that back when Hitler was on the loose no one figured running wars based on political agendas made sense.

 

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28
For decades no matter how hard our Republican legislators in Raleigh tried they just couldn’t get themselves into trouble with a lobbyist – they just didn’t have the umph in the General Assembly to pull it off.
 
But now they do and, suddenly, Republicans are learning some hard lessons.
 
The greater your power the greater the number of temptations that land on your doorstep and since the most powerful Republican in Raleigh is House Speaker Thom Tillis it’s no wonder lobbying turmoil has fallen on the Speaker’s head.
 
One morning a fortnight ago Thom Tillis woke up and found himself with two aides having affairs with lobbyists and a cohort of newspaper reporters nipping at his heels. Nor did his lobbyist woes end there. A week later he was back in the newspapers for accepting a trip to Miami paid for by a lobbying group that swears flying the Speaker of the North Carolina House to Florida had nothing to do with lobbying.
 
After a decade of scandals in Raleigh you’d have expected any legislator who heard a lobbyist coo, Won’t you join me on a trip to Miami? would have run for the hills but the other problem with power is it makes a fellow feel invulnerable. Just ask John Edwards. And that’s when a legislator starts learning the hard way.

 

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26
Last week McCrory got up at a press conference in Raleigh, lambasted Walter Dalton’s negative ads, then said he’d sued two of Dalton’s Democratic supporters for slander, but, then, it turned out McCrory hadn’t sued anyone – all he’d done was file a two page form called an ‘Intent to Sue’ which to any attorney worth his salt looked like pure bluff.
 
What happened next was the political equivalent of the earth shaking under Pat McCrory’s feet. The Democrats called his bluff. And sued him. And mouse trapped him. Because now that lawsuit is going to count and those Democratic lawyers are making no bones about what they mean to do next: “We look forward,” attorney Michael Wiesel told the press, “To taking his (McCrory’s) deposition before November 2012, to answer questions about his tax returns, his clients and who is paying him to do what.”
 
Worse still, if you’re Pat McCrory, is who you just landed in a lawsuit with – not with Dalton but with two polecat Democratic groups and McCrory and those polecats are going to have a knife fight while Walter Dalton sits back enjoying himself.
 
In politics, like lighting out of a clear blue sky, the unexpected strikes. And it just struck Pat McCrory. And Walter Dalton must be counting his lucky stars.
 

 

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