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North Carolina - Republicans

24
The Republican effort to suppress votes at Appalachian State University may have backfired.
 
More than 700 people voted yesterday at the Student Union polling place that the State Board of Elections tried to shut down. Now we know why the board didn't want it.
 
An App student said, “It sends a clear message about how we respond to being suppressed. College students are obviously listening.”
 
A tip of the TAP hat to the 20-somethings in the ASU College Dems and the 20-plus-somethings in the Watauga County Dems who fought so hard for this.
 
Ian O’Keefe, the coordinated-campaign manager, was supposed to be on Rachel Maddow’s show last night to talk about it, but got bumped by Ebola.
 
Now Republicans might get bumped by an epidemic of their own making.

 

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24
36% Approve
46% Disapprove
 
The WRAL Poll painted a bleak picture  of a Governor caught between a rock and a hard place.  As Mark Binker wrote, only a little over a third of the voters approve of the job Governor McCrory is doing.
 
But worse news lurked beneath the surface.
 
These days you see polarized groups of voters everywhere. Left, right, up, down, Republican, Democrat; everyone is mad at someone and can’t wait to vote ‘em out of office: Republicans don’t like Obama so they’re voting against Kay Hagan. Democrats don’t like the state legislature so they’re voting against Thom Tillis.
 
But, buried in the crosstabs of WRAL’s poll, two pitfalls lie in wait for Pat McCrory. Consider the Governor’s job approval rating among Republicans:

    Approve 64%
    Disapprove 22%
 
Almost a quarter of the Republicans believe Governor McCrory is doing a poor job. That doesn’t mean they won’t vote for him but whoever heard of a Republican winning a statewide election without winning 90% plus of the Republican vote.
 
One last statistic: The Governor needs half the Independents vote for him to win. Here’re the numbers:
  
Independent Voters
Pat McCrory Approve: 33%
Pat McCrory Disapprove: 46%

 

 

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24
Headline (two weeks ago): Thom Tillis on Life Support. Campaign Dying. 
 
Headline (this week): Tillis Makes Miraculous Recovery. Campaign Surging.
 
Now, as a storyline, that’s just about unbeatable. It’s like Lazarus rising from the dead.
 
The problem is two months ago, two weeks ago, and today (in WRAL’s latest poll), Thom Tillis has trailed Kay Hagan by the same number – 3 points. He hasn’t moved.
 
He wasn’t dead then and he’s not resurrected now which brings me to a terrible devilment: Temptation. And reporters love of a good story.
 
Tillis Dying was pure melodrama and the press (especially the Washington press) bought the story hook, line and sinker.
 
Then the press needed a new story and temptation bit again. Tillis Makes Miraculous Recovery was even greater melodrama. And it beat writing: No Change in Election. Nothing new. Or explaining: Election Mystery: Undecided Voters Dislike Both Tillis and Hagan. Who will they Choose?

 

 

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23
I watched the ‘empty chair’ debate too (see Gary’s blog below).
 
And it brought back old memories. Of old foibles.
           
Years ago, in 1980, when John East ran against Robert Morgan he challenged Senator Morgan to a debate. And challenged Morgan to debate. And challenged Morgan to debate.
 
And Morgan said No, No and No.
 
So we had a great idea – we’d do an ad with John East debating an empty chair.
 
The other night Time Warner Cable TV did the same thing – held a debate with Thom Tillis and an empty chair (because Kay Hagan didn’t show up).
 
Which brings me back to what happened to John East 34 years ago.
 
We ran our great ad from Manteo to Murphy, blanketed the airwaves – then polled and nothing had changed.
 
No one cared.

 

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23
Time Warner Cable News made more news than it intended with the “empty chair” debate.
 
One media critic said TWC “orchestrated a phony scandal and boosted Thom Tillis's North Carolina Senate campaign by placing an empty chair for his opponent, Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, at an event it billed as a ‘debate’ -- though it had known for months Hagan would not attend. TWC's stunt resulted in widespread negative media coverage of Hagan and helped amplify GOP attacks on the senator in the midst of a race some experts consider a toss-up.”
 
The criticism came from Media Matters, a watchdog group that leans left. Yes, you could dismiss its critique as “liberal bias,” but reporters and editors here are asking the same questions.
 
The empty chair – one of the oldest and tiredest clichés in politics – led The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer to pull out of the debate.
 
The N&O’s executive editor, John Drescher, said, “We had an honest miscommunication with Time Warner Cable News. We wanted to have a serious discussion with Mr. Tillis about the issues without any gimmicks. My understanding was that we would tell viewers every 15 minutes that Sen. Hagan had declined our invitation but that we would not have an empty chair.”
 
TWC’s interviewers certainly didn’t kowtow to Tillis. Tim Boyum and Loretta Boniti asked tough questions and had a chance to follow up and pin him down. Some viewers may think Tillis lost the debate to the empty chair, much like Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention.
 
TWC may have lost the debate, too. It’s in the difficult position of making news, not just reporting it. And the affair gave Media Matters a chance to dredge up “accusations of a cozy relationship between Tillis and the telecom company.”

 

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17
In the state where President Obama had his closest win in 2008 and his closest loss in 2012, why wouldn’t the U.S. Senate race be tight as a tick?
 
Carter has posted a great series of blogs about the race (although he’s wrong on the education issue). My other favorite blogger, Thomas Mills, weighed in on the “State of the Race.” I’m up!
 
Without the benefit of a good poll (see my blog yesterday), I’m guessing. So I base my guess on watching what the campaigns are doing – and trying to decipher what they think is happening.
 
First Hagan. Her real feat is that she’s even in this race, let alone tied or just ahead. Given that it’s Obama’s second midterm election and given how low his job ratings are, she could be toast. But she and her team have run a great campaign, far better than Tillis’. They made Tillis and his legislative record the issue. Now, as they fend off the last-minute attacks that feed on fears about ISIS and Ebola, they are focused like a laser on women: yes, issues like defunding Planned Parenthood, but also education, health care, minimum wage and special interests vs. the middle class. They know that women will decide this election, especially women in the big counties. And they have a huge field operation that is also focused on those voters, as Thomas notes.
 
Tillis’ team looked for a long time like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Now they think they’ve found the target: national security. They believe voters will vote against Hagan because she missed a hearing on ISIS, and they either have evidence it works or have convinced themselves it works.
 
(Of course, if members of Congress going to congressional hearings kept us safe, we’d be safe from ISIS, Ebola and everything up to and including “Zoos: Wild Animal Attacks.” Congress has about a 16 percent approval rating. Do we care who in Congress goes to what hearings to pose, preen and pontificate?)
 
The question is whether new and insiderish information now, when voters are saturated in ads and conflicting claims, will cut through. And Hagan’s response is, in effect, that she went to ISIS hearings more often than she voted with Obama.
 
Which brings us to Obama. Now, I think he’s been a great President. He stopped an economic meltdown, started a recovery, reduced the deficit, gave millions more people health care and kept us from doing stupid things overseas – all in the face of Republican die-harders who would wreck the country just to oppose him. But he does it with so little passion he looks passive. He has made the challenge for Hagan and other Democrats immeasurably harder. Especially as we go through our media-induced Great National Ebola Freakout.
 
For all of you souls in the campaign war rooms, I feel your pain. I’ve been there through those long final days. Sometimes we knew we were winning, sometimes we knew we were losing and sometimes we didn’t know what the hell was happening.
 
But it will be over in 18 days. Then you can enjoy all us bloggers, commentators and Wednesday-morning quarterbacks picking you apart.
 
Salut!

 

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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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16
After Hagan’s first round of attacks calling Tillis a Tea Partier, a few Swing Voters decided to vote for Hagan, a few decided to vote for Tillis, but most stayed Undecided. Ambivalently Undecided. They didn’t want to vote for Obama-Hagan. But they didn’t want to vote for Tillis either.
 
The bad news for Tillis was Hagan, by driving up his ‘negatives,’ had put him in a corner. The good news was Tillis had time to get out.
 
But then, suddenly, Hagan changed directions.
 
A year ago when the Moral Monday demonstrators descended on Raleigh it was a little like a circus – but it was a circus that got lots of press. Mountains of press. And the protestors’ message was simple.
 
Republicans in the legislature, they said, were against education. And teachers. And women. And children. And the poor, sick and infirmed.
 
Over and over they said Republicans had cut spending on public schools.
 
Now, that wasn’t quite so.
 
The Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction, June Atkinson, had proposed a budget that said legislators should increase spending on education hundreds of millions of dollars and, in fact, Republicans cut that proposed increase by $500 million.
 
But that wasn’t exactly a hard cut that meant the state would spend $500 million less on education than the year before.
 
In fact, since Republicans won a majority in the legislature in 2011 they’ve increased education spending a total of a billion dollars – or 14% – and even when you factor in the costs of increased enrollment and inflation spending on education has still increased 3%.
 
Republicans didn’t increase spending as much as Democrats like June Atkinson wanted – but there was no staggering $500 million cut.
 
The problem (for Tillis) was a year ago when the  Moral Monday demonstrators charged Republicans had cut spending, no chorus of Republican voices had answered, Wait a minute. That’s not so.  Instead, for a year, voters heard Democrats saying Republicans had cut education and when they didn’t hear a contrary word from Republicans they just, naturally, figured it must be so.
 
For Republican legislators in ‘safe seats’ that didn’t matter much but Thom Tillis wasn’t running in a safe seat – he was running statewide and as soon as Kay Hagan finished telling Swing Voters Tillis was a Koch-Brothers-Tea-Partier the next words out of her mouth were he’d cut education spending $500 million.
 
A month later Tillis was still stuck in a corner – Independents were still looking at Hagan-Obama and saying, I don’t want to vote for her. But they were also looking at Tillis and saying, I don’t want to vote for him either.
 
To be continued …

 

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16
When Thom Tillis started his campaign his prospects looked promising. Obama wasn’t just unpopular, his unpopularity was a plumb line cutting through the electorate – you were either for Obama or against him and Kay Hagan was on the wrong side of the line.
 
Tillis, himself, back then wasn’t too well known but he could count on the Republican base falling in line and with 70% of the Swing Voters disapproving of Obama it looked like they’d fall in line, too, and send him sailing to victory.
 
Then, even before Tillis won the Republican Primary, Kay Hagan (and her Super PAC allies) lit into Tillis calling him a Koch-Brothers-Tea-Partier and, then, instead of sailing to victory, the earth shifted beneath Tillis’ feet.
 
To be continued …
 

 

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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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