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10
Ricky Diaz’s work here is done. Clearly it is time for him to work his magic for Republicans all across America.
 
He gave North Carolina a year’s worth of scandals, stumbles and PR disasters. Starting with his hiring: a 24-year-old getting a DHHS job paying $85,000 a year, while teachers and state employees got no raise. That’s the gift that keeps on giving for Democrats. They can bash McCrory with it all the way through 2016.
 
Then there is the host of DHHS horrors. First, the not-so-fast NC FAST and the off-track NC TRACKS. Then 2013 ended with the Medicaid card mailing fiasco, which Diaz tried to downplay, angering the media.
 
Now there’s the food stamp disaster. And nearly 500,000 North Carolinians will always owe Diaz for making sure they don’t get decent health care.
 
All of these, of course, are the fault of Bev Perdue, Obamacare and Benghazi.
 
Secretary Wos gave Diaz a “well done, good and faithful servant” farewell. But Governor McCrory might be thinking: “Thanks a lot, pal. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

 

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09
The surprise wasn’t Governor McCrory’s Cabinet Secretaries ripping into the liberals over at the Southern Environmental Law Center, calling them ‘do-gooders sitting in ivory towers in air-conditioned offices in Chapel Hill sipping lattes’;--- the surprise was the cost of the two bridges the Governor’s camp and the environmentalists  were battling over.
 
The Governor’s folks want to build to a new three-mile long bridge to Cape Hatteras which will cost $215 million.
 
The SELC adamantly disagrees and, instead, wants the department to build a seventeen-mile bridge (because the longer bridge will protect the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge).
 
The longer bridge, according to the state, will cost a cool billion dollars.
 
Curious, after doing a little math, I looked up the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge to see what kind of varmints the SELC was protecting: The Wildlife Refuge is a way station for migratory birds like ducks, geese, and swans, and home to alligators, wolves, and turtles (which are endangered species).
 
Now, I don’t have a bit of use for alligators or wolves but it’s hard not to admire a creature as noble as the Snow Goose though, still, the idea of spending $785 million more so a goose doesn’t have to fly around a bridge seems a bit odd.

 

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09
Governor McCrory is in a box on teacher pay, and Democrats can’t let him wriggle out.
 
You don’t need to be a political genius to predict what’s coming. McCrory will try to make a big splash by proposing a pay raise for teachers this year. He has to. He and the Republican legislature have angered and alienated teachers, all educators, school board members, students, parents, Democrats and Republicans.
 
So they’ll try to do damage control in the May legislature. Call it "the Teacher Pay Shuffle." Probably a one-year raise and a vague promise about the future. (They’ll say they can’t do more because of Medicaid. Which they’ll blame on Bev Perdue, Obamacare and Benghazi.)
 
Unfortunately, Jim Hunt beat them to the punch. His op-ed Sunday made it clear than one-year-and-a-promise isn’t enough. There has to be a four-year commitment to reach the national average, which is where we were in Hunt’s fourth term.
 
Hunt set the bar that McCrory has to meet. Again.

 

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08
Thom Tillis’ campaign paid too much attention to what he said and not enough to what you see in his new TV ad.
 
It’s a perfect set-up for his opponents, whether Republicans or Kay Hagan.
 
Tillis looks and sounds like the Mitt Romney that people hated in 2012: a wealthy corporate boardroom guy surrounded by white men in suits. The ad screams: I’m most at home in the corporate suites and at the head of the conference table.
 
Not exactly a man of the people.
 
Tillis’ message, of course, is a predictable attack on Obamacare. Yes, voters are down on Big Government. But they’re not exactly high on Big Business.

 

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08
A “record-high 42 percent of Americans identify as Independents: Republican identification lowest in at least 25 years," Gallup breathlessly tells us. But those numbers may obscure the truth about politics today.
 
It’s not that four in 10 Americans swing bath and forth between the two parties – carefully studying the issues, judiciously judging the candidates and preparing to, as they say, “vote the man, not the party.”
 
It’s that politics and politicians are so hated today that people don’t want the stigma of being a “Democrat” or “Republican.”
 
Most “Independents” toe the party line one way or the other. True swing voters are rare. And they’re hard to reach. They are people, women especially, who don’t trust Democrats on money issues and don’t trust Republicans on moral issues.
 
Given the gulf between the parties today, it’s hard to conceive of an informed voter who doesn’t vote consistently with one party or the other.
 
“Informed” is the operative word here. If someone is truly undecided, they’re probably truly uninformed. And probably tuning out politicians.

 

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07
Don’t underestimate a candidate who already won 12 million Americans’ votes on TV.
 
Clay Aiken may be a surprising candidate for Congress, but he may be just what Democrats need: a new face and fresh blood that energizes new voters, especially young voters.
 
The social-media response to his possible candidacy in the 2nd District was striking, so I asked three 20-somethings what that’s about.
 
One said: “He’s got charisma. He can raise money. And he can get people excited about the race here and around the country.”
 
Another mentioned Aiken’s work as chairman and co-founder of the National Inclusion Project for children with disabilities. President Bush appointed him to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. He’s a local boy who has done well and done good.
 
A third said Democrats need “nontraditional candidates with unique voices.”
 
Aiken is that. And apparently he can handle the rough-and-tumble. After he finished second on NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice, Donald Trump called him “tough, smart and cunning.”
 
He’s got to stop this runner-up stuff, though. One wit said: “The good news is he’s leading other Democrats in the polls. The bad news is he’s behind Ruben Studdard.”
 
Yes, he’s gay. Get over it. Democrats aren’t going to win the Phil Robertson vote.
 
Speaking of Robertson, Aiken had thoughtful comments about that flap: "There are certain things in society that we have become universally against: racism, obviously, is wrong. The treatment of people with disabilities is wrong. But homophobia is one thing that we are still a little bit accepting of in certain areas….But times have changed enough and perceptions have changed enough in the time that I've even been in the public eye, that I think we've made a lot of progress."
 
Once again, the Democratic Party is having an old debate: Do we need more “moderate” candidates who look like me (old white guys), or do we look to a new generation?
 
In a recent article about Terry Sanford, Barry Yeoman asked Mac McCorkle at Duke’s Sanford School what Sanford would tell Democrats today. McCorkle said:
 
“It would be very clear to him: Go young, and go diverse. He would be counseling people: Step aside. Be the elder statesmen. But bring in the young. They’re going to make mistakes, but they’re the future.”
 
Count me in with Terry and the young.
 

 

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07
Like a lot of politicians, Governor McCrory wants to blame somebody else for all things bad and claim credit for all things good. Yesterday, he set a land speed record by doing both within a matter of minutes.
 
First, speaking to a business group, he claimed credit for North Carolina’s unemployment rate dropping 2 percent last year. Then, talking to reporters right after his speech, he blamed the Perdue administration and Obamacare for DHHS’ Medicaid-mailing disaster last week.
 
We feel compelled to ask: If he can get an entire state economy straightened out in just one year, why doesn’t he fix DHHS?

 

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07
Years ago a doctor asked my mother her definition of happiness and without batting an eye she said: Love and money.
 
When it came to fundamentals mother got right down to brass tacks.
 
A while back up in Washington a piece of the federal government – the National Academy of Sciences – decided Congress needed to figure out what makes people happy so it could pass bills to bring more joy to their lives – so the NSA did a study asking folks questions like how often they smile or laugh every day.
 
When the study was done the scientists carefully analyzed and weighed the data, intending to share the secret to happiness with Congress but the scientists ran head on into a roadblock.
 
The data showed 87% of the American people were already happy.
 
Which left the scientists in a pickle: Because if Congress didn’t need to get into the happiness business the scientists could be out of a job.
 
So the scientists went to work to find a solution to their problem and they did: 87%, they announced, wasn’t good enough.
 
In fact, the scientists reported, sadly, that America only ranked a measly 17th on the world happiness index – while tiny Denmark, the home of Hamlet, ranked first – and, of course, the scientists had hit a nerve: No red-blooded American Congressman could let himself be outdone by a nation no bigger than Rhode Island.
 
Next the scientists announced they’d also discovered another startling fact: My mother was dead-wrong about money.
 
Folks get happier, the scientists reported, up to the exact point where they earn $36,000 a year (or $144,000 for a family of four).
 
After that, they get unhappier or, at best, their happiness flat lines and stays the same.
 
Finally the scientists reported the worst news of all: The USA, income-wise, has already passed the ‘bliss point.’
 
Americans are already making too much money to be happy.
 
Now, there’s a problem Congress can solve.

 

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06
Millions of dollars will be spent and billions of words spilled, but only one thing will decide this election: Will voters be madder at President Obama or at Republicans in the legislature?
 
On today’s market, the outlook for Democrats is as chilling as a New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge. For two months, the news has been all Obamacare – and all bad. While Obama energizes voters when he’s on the ballot, the magic doesn’t transfer when he’s not. In 2010, his voters stayed home and the Obama-haters turned out in droves. That’s what got North Carolina in this mess.
 
If that happens again, Kay Hagan could lose, and Republicans could control both houses of Congress and keep super-majorities in Raleigh.
 
2015 would be no fun.
 
But, then, in 2016, Americans and North Carolinians would recoil at the result, Republicans will nominate Ted Cruz for President and there will be a Democratic landslide statewide and nationally.
 
There’s also a more optimistic scenario for Democrats this year: Anger at the legislature over the damage done to education could trump anger at Obama. The GOP and Tea Party could overreach nationally, like 1998, when Newt Gingrich & Co. overreached, lost big and paved the road for John Edwards’ election.
 
The point is that elections today are driven by negative emotions, namely fear and anger. No politician is popular. No politician has approval ratings above the 40s in North Carolina. By contrast, Jim Hunt stayed north of 60 percent most of the time he was Governor.
 
So keep an eye on one thing: Who are the voters maddest at in November?

 

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03
When I saw the headline I thought it must be a hoax but it turned out to be true: Congress, which hasn’t passed a budget in memory, had held a dead-serious, high-level, official hearing to establish whether there is extra-terrestrial intelligence in the universe.
 
As one wit quipped on the Washington Post’s website, First, they need to determine if there is intelligence in the Republican leadership in Congress.
 
Now this may all just sound like normal political foolishness as usual and you may say, Ho hum – but think about it: This bit of foolishness may have teeth.
 
Now, anytime a Republican Congressman slams a Democrat Congressman (who has a sense of humor) about the Obamacare meltdown the Democrat can simply look back at him, smile sweetly, and say, Well, I’m not the one who believes E.T. may be real.


 

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Carter & Gary
 
Carter Wrenn
 
 
Gary Pearce
 
 
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. 
 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
 
 
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