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The American people wanted change in the worst kind of way. And they got it.

There are only two messages in politics: (1) “Time for a change.” Or (2) “Stay the course.”

Hillary Clinton was a status quo candidate in a change year. Trump was change. And people were willing to blow up Washington to change it.

But North Carolina is a beacon of hope for Democrats.

Roy Cooper won the Governor’s race. Josh Stein was elected Attorney General. Mike Morgan won the Supreme Court race – and Democrats have a majority. Four Democrats, including Cynthia Ball and Joe John in Wake County, unseated Republican House members.

Those results are remarkable. They are a tribute to those candidates and their campaigns. Democrats should celebrate them. And look to the future.

Republicans own it now. They have to govern.

Maybe they’ll make America great again. Maybe not. Maybe Democrats will have a huge comeback in 2018 and 2020.

In North Carolina, Roy Cooper has the opportunity to define a stark choice: his way or the Republicans’. If they don’t work with him, he can run against them.

I’ve been in politics for 40 years. My first campaign was Jim Hunt’s first race for Governor in 1976. I have learned one thing: There are no final victories. And no final defeats.

There is always another election.


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Well, it’s Election Day and we haven’t covered ourselves with glory – Hillary sounded like the meanest mother-in-law on earth yesterday and if Donald Trump ever so much as looks sideways at another blonde he ought to be committed to Bedlam.

If politics is the measurement of our nation’s virtue – we’re up the creek: Our choice is between vanity (Trump) and venality (Hillary) and the only mystery is which one will do the most harm. Our last hope is the separation of powers doctrine which limits how much damage any one politician can do.

On the other hand, the other night, I watched the last game of the World Series. Someone said the average age of the players on the field was 24 years old. Chicago scored. Cleveland fought back. Chicago scored two more runs in the 10th. Cleveland fought back again. But ended up one run short.

Those young men fought hard and clean and never gave up and after it was over there was no bragging and no name-calling.

Looking at the pair of aging ‘baby boomers’ duking it out this election – the future looks bleak. But looking at the young men who battled and won and lost with grace in Cleveland – who can deny there’s hope?

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Most candidates view asking people to give money to their campaigns like having a tooth pulled; over twenty years, Jesse Helms never picked up the telephone, dialed a number, and asked for a contribution. Once, during a meeting, after Jesse finished answering questions his chief fundraiser asked the group of businessmen to contribute.

After a less than enthusiastic response Jesse stood up, said, Well, if it doesn’t matter to you folks it doesn’t matter to me – and headed for the door.

Either Roy Cooper’s inclined to ask and ask a lot or he has one of the finest Finance Chairmen you ever saw – because one of the most shocking facts (in an election filled with sex tapes and FBI investigations) is Roy Cooper outraising Pat McCrory by $8 million ($22 million to $14 million).

That’s never happened before – every incumbent Governor from Jim Hunt to Jim Martin to Jim Hunt again, outraised his challenger but this year the fundraising world turned upside down.

That’s not the final word. It doesn’t spell  d-e-f-e-a-t  for Pat today. But it’s sure easier to win when you spend $8 million more than your opponent.

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A threat shadowing Republican candidates has been the fear that Republicans who dislike Donald Trump (and also can’t abide Hillary) won’t vote; if these ‘Ambivalent to Trump’ Republicans worried and fretted then stayed home on Election Day it looked like it could cost every Republican from Pat McCrory to a local School Board candidate votes no one can risk losing in a close election.

Well, yesterday, the ‘Early Voting’ reports came in and a lot of candidates heaved a sigh of relief: More Republicans voted early this year than four years ago. That’s not proof the ‘Ambivalent to Trump’ Republicans are heading for the polls – but Republican turnout going up not down is a good sign.

The second sign was a surprise – for Democrats: African American turnout – compared to four years ago – declined. Roughly 10% fewer African Americans voted ‘early’ this year. And if the trend holds up it could cost every Democrat, from Hillary to the bottom of the ballot, votes they can’t risk losing.

Two signs. Neither final. But both encouraging – for Republicans.

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Women were coming out of the woodwork for weeks pointing fingers at Donald Trump and Trump’s been saying if you really want to vote against a man who grabs and kisses women you ought to vote against Hillary because of Bill.

We’ve had more sex on our hands than needed but finally it died down. For a moment. When Jim Comey announced that while investigating a former Congressman named Weiner (for his peccadillos with teenage girls) the FBI had found a computer with 650,000 emails on it including emails from Weiner’s estranged wife, Hillary aide Huma Abedin.

Then the FBI reopened Hillary’s email investigation, Hillary went a little berserk, sounding like the meanest mother-in-law you ever heard, and Trump started rising in the polls.

Then to prove the FBI’s not political, on the Sunday before the election when there were no Republican Congressmen within miles of Washington, Comey wrote two Republican Committee Chairmen to announce his latest investigation had proved Hillary was innocent. His letter arrived just in time for the newspapers to put it on the front page the day before the election.

American politics hit rock bottom this election. But no one can say it’s been boring.

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In both of the last two Presidential elections, North Carolina was one of the two closest states.

Here we go again.

The Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll shows Clinton up 2 here, Ross and Burr tied and Cooper up 3.

The final New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll for North Carolina showed Clinton and Trump tied at 44, Burr up 1 and Cooper up 1.

Two X Factors will decide these races.

One, which will prove more effective: the Republican voter-suppression effort or the Clinton turnout machine? The early-vote limits held down African-American turnout. Can the Clinton campaign make up the lost ground Election Day?

Two, did the FBI announcement Sunday undo the damage done to Clinton by the FBI’s initial announcement?

Here’s the good news (maybe): We should know early. And if Clinton wins North Carolina, Democrats across the country can pop the champagne corks.


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Back in the olden days, there was just Election Day. None of this Early Vote stuff.

Every Election Day, in every campaign I worked in, first thing in the morning, The Great Turnout Freakout would hit. The calls would start early:

“Turnout is incredible! It’s higher than ever here! We’ve never seen longer lines!”

“Our voters aren’t turning out in Whoville! You’ve got to do something!”

“It looks like there’s nothing but Republicans in line this morning! This is a disaster! There’s no way we can carry the county if it doesn’t change!”

It would go on like that all day.

Then, in the afternoon, you’d start trading gossip with other politicos and with reporters. Somebody heard about early exit polls. Somebody else had early numbers from Charlotte. Somebody else knew what it all means.

By the time the polls closed and the real numbers came in, you’d be numb from information overload.

That night, and in the days afterward, you’d find out that nearly all the rumors and gossip and tidbits that you obsessed over all day were wrong.

And the votes came down about like your polls said they would.

Now, with Early Vote, The Great Turnout Freakout lasts for two weeks. That’s two weeks of swapping, passing on and misinterpreting the latest morsel of data or rumor or prediction somebody heard from somebody who heard it from somebody who really knows what’s going on.

It’s a wonder anybody working in a campaign can keep their sanity.

Here’s my advice: Ignore it. Ignore it all. Ignore the anecdotes about long lines or short lines at one polling place or another. Ignore the scraps of incomplete numbers that people don’t understand but feel compelled to pass around like a map to hidden treasure.

Ignore the last-minute polls that show Trump winning North Carolina by 6 or Hillary winning 28 percent of Republican voters.

Ignore, especially, the stories by reporters who don’t understand the first thing about real campaign data and are relying on information they get from “experts” who may or may not know anything or from campaign insiders who always, always lie about the real numbers.

It’s not that the insiders are necessarily dishonest. They just have every incentive to lie. If their numbers are bad, they lie so their supporters won’t get demoralized. If the numbers are good, they lie so their supporters won’t get complacent.

You can get a decent idea of what’s really happening if you talk to campaign operatives who are (a) knowledgeable and (b) straight shooters.

My sense of the Democratic campaigns now is that they are confident and guardedly optimistic. But they’re like Charlie Brown – scared that Lucy’s going to pull the football away at the last second.

You can also look at how candidates and campaigns act. Take Richard Burr – his “bullseye” crack and his campaign’s decision to stop giving the N&O his schedule. They look scared to death.

Or you can accept the uncertainty, which is hard given how passionate and anxious people are about this election.

Or you can be like the fellow who said, “I couldn’t take any more pressure and tension, so I decided to relax and watch Game 7 of the World Series.”

So much for that.

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Republicans and Democrats agree on something!

There is a bipartisan consensus that yard signs are a waste of campaigns’ time and money. And an eyesore.

I’ve never had more response to a blog than to my yard-sign rant.

Jack Cozort, former State Court of Appeals Judge, wrote:

“When I ran, I wanted enough yard signs so that I could put one in as many yards of my neighbors on my street as possible. That way, when I came home at night, I could see all my signs and feel good.  All others were worthless.”

Mark Ezzell sent along this inspired story from my favorite newspaper, The Onion: “Yard Sign With Candidate’s Name On It Electrifies Congressional Race.”

Some highlights:

“JASPER, IN—A blue corrugated plastic sign bearing the name of candidate Todd Young has invigorated and galvanized voters in southeastern Indiana’s 9th District congressional race, catapulting the Republican to an all but insurmountable lead over his opponent, Democratic incumbent Baron Hill.

“The 24-by-18-inch signboard, which political pundits have called an ‘instant game changer’ since its appearance on Jasper, IN’s Jackson Street last Friday, features a red, white, and blue color scheme, four stars above Young’s name, and the slogan ‘Promise of a New Tomorrow.’ It also includes the word ‘Vote’ and a check-mark-filled square next to the candidate’s name, a strategy expected to triple turnout at the polls as throngs of voters rush to support Young.

“‘When I drove by the sign two days ago, I had to pull over to the side of the road and catch my breath’,” said Jade Williams, 34, a lifelong Democrat and former supporter of Baron Hill. ‘I’d never felt such a profound connection to a candidate before. Then I saw the powerful red line under his name and knew I had to drive to City Hall immediately and register as a Republican’….

“Experts across the country are calling the small but legible sign a ‘brilliant political move,’ and have praised Young’s campaign for making the sign double-sided so it can be seen by motorists driving in both directions.

“A new Gallup poll now has Young ahead of Hill by nearly 65 points….

“‘That sign has destroyed us,’ said a senior Hill staffer speaking on condition of anonymity. ‘We’ve been brainstorming nonstop for days, and we think the only way to regain any ground would be for Baron to somehow appear in each constituent’s living room, if only for 30 seconds, and either state his moral and political beliefs while his wife and children stand at his side or else rip into questionable statements Young has made in the past. But unfortunately, there’s no way to achieve this.”

Posted in: General
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Take a deep breath. It will be over in eight days. And it will be a long week.

It’s fitting that the longest, meanest and ugliest election in history comes on the latest date possible, November 8. Just to prolong our agony.

Now the future of the republic rests with the fickle five percent or so of voters who are still undecided. Some of them, believe it or not, are just tuning in.

They’ll figure the choice is between a woman who mishandled emails and a man who manhandles and humiliates women.

Speaking of emails, it’s always a thrill a minute with the Clintons.

Over time, they’ve been as good at getting out of these crises as they are at getting into them. Their usual strategy is to attack the accuser, be it Gennifer Flowers or James Comey.

Comey deserves his come-uppance. He drops this last-minute bomb about emails that may or may not be “pertinent” to the FBI investigation?

The election should be decided by the American people, not by the FBI and the KGB.


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Back in June, Gary wrote about an odd phenomenon: How, in the Presidential election, the candidate who dominated – who received the most press – dropped in the polls. It was as if voters thought, I dislike them both but the one I dislike most is the one I see most. Watching the Sunday morning talk shows, yesterday, that idea is now a mantra with the pundits.

Which probably means the FBI’s announcement about Hillary’s emails is a threat to her. Because she’s back in the press.

It’s contrary to all past practices but the candidate who disappears for the next eight days – at the end of the campaign – may win the election.

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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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