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One of the most dreaded beasts in politics slouched into North Carolina a week ago in a Wall Street Journal poll. Contemplating their Hobson’s Choice – between Hillary and Donald –  voters tilled to Hillary who promptly soared to a 9 point lead in the state.

But the debacle isn’t Hillary’s growing lead: It’s Roy Cooper (leading Pat McCrory by 7) and Deborah Ross (leading Richard Burr by 2) gaining votes as Hillary gains votes.

We’ve seen all this before in years past when ‘The Wave’ roared ashore (in 1972, 1980, 1984, 1994, 2010). Back then,  it wrecked havoc among Democrats.

While this time the beast is stalking Republicans.

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Donald Trump was right. Somebody is trying to rig the election.

It’s his party. In North Carolina.

Dallas Woodhouse’s email is the smoking gun. He directed Republican election board members in all 100 counties to make “party line” changes that keep Democrats from voting and keep Republican politicians in power.

This is exactly what Republicans claim to oppose: the abuse of government power to deny citizens’ their rights – in this case, the most fundamental right of all Americans.

This is something Putin would do in Russia. Maybe that’s where Trump’s Republican Party got the idea.

Woodhouse’s email also betrays the fear in Republicans this year. They fear the voters. And they’ll do anything to protect their power from the voters’ verdict.

This is another reason to elect Roy Cooper Governor. The Governor’s party appoints a majority on all 100 county elections boards and the state elections board.

If Cooper wins, the boards will make it easier, not harder, for every citizen to vote.

That will be big for 2018 and 2020.


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Every few days somebody asks, “How’s Governor Hunt doing?” Here’s your answer. Bill Kirby Jr. wrote in the Fayetteville Observer this week about Hunt’s appearance at a Tim Kaine rally:

“You would have thought, from the audience reaction, that Jim Hunt was the Democratic vice presidential nominee….Hunt, 79, his hair now near white, still can stir a Democratic following….

“Hunt seemed to bask in this moment of political campaign deja vu, and the adulation.

“You could sense that James Baxter Hunt Jr. didn’t want to leave the stage, but before departing he had a final word.

“‘This election is a great opportunity to build America, and what we’ll have under two great leaders,’ Hunt said. ‘I predict to you we’re going to have great Democratic victories in North Carolina that support our military, education and the economy. We’re going to elect Roy Cooper as governor, Tim Kaine as vice president … and Hillary Clinton as the next president’.”

“The old governor, no question about it, had ’em in the palms of his ageless political hands.”

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The 24-hour-news-cycle has turned into a 20-minute-news-cycle which doesn’t leave much time to think. About all a reporter – who has a publisher demanding a new story so he can sell more Internet ads on his website – can do is grab the latest tweet by Donald Trump and let it rip.

And no one understands that better than Trump.

He feeds the news cycle in the morning on Twitter, at midday on Facebook, and in the evening at rallies. He feeds in on Saturday. And Sunday.

He says he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and people will still vote for him and news sites across the Internet go wild. It’s a new howl every 20 minutes. And Trump’s the star of the show.

There’s only one glitch: Trump’s everywhere. But Hillary’s getting the votes.

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Donald Trump’s been called every name in the book: Braggart, con-man, bully. But no one’s called him a flip-flopper. The Donald speaks his mind and sticks to his guns.

Then an odd thing happened.

First Trump refused to endorse Paul Ryan, John McCain and Kelly Ayotte – which promptly ignited a firestorm up in Washington. The Republican Establishment lit into Trump.

And, then, we saw something we’d never seen before.

The Donald climbed up on a podium, praised Ryan, Ayotte, and McCain and endorsed all three.

The Donald had flip-flopped.

But then in the next breath he sat down his speech and the old Donald reappeared.

Hillary, Trump said, is pretty close to unhinged.

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Polls suggest that up to 30 percent of Republicans don’t want to vote for Donald Trump. They’re torn about what to do. Swallow hard and vote for Trump? Swallow harder and vote for Hillary Clinton? Vote for Gary Johnson, half of whose issues are totally contrary to Republican thinking?

These Republicans are in agony. But even if Trump loses big, their agony may just be beginning.

Trump may go away, but the voters who love him and won him 37 states will still be here. And the never-Trump Republicans will still have to deal with them.

There are two problems with Trump: (1) the man and (2) the message.

Even if the man – this intellectually empty, emotionally unstable, dishonest, disabled-mocking, insult-hurling, vain, narcissistic and dangerous basket case – leaves politics forever, he will leave behind a message that other Republican wanna-be’s will pick up.

Trump’s message will live on: the overt and covert racism, the Mexican-bashing, the Muslim-bashing, the free trade-bashing, the authoritarianism and – above all – the contempt for Washington politicians and the Republican establishment.

And the next messenger may not be as flawed as Trump.

The never-Trump Republicans may have lost their party forever.


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One poll has Hillary leading by nine. Another by ten. Another fifteen. The last fifteen national polls on Real Clear Politics all show Hillary leading.

So is it a Hillary bump? A Trump dip?

Is the die cast? Will the dip pass? Or get worse?

Most Democrats look on Trump’s demise as revealed truth, a meltdown destined to grow worse, while most Republicans view it as a glitch, a bump in the road: The ship, they say, will right itself.

But what if Hillary does win the Presidential Election by fifteen points? No Democrat has done that since Lyndon Johnson – and in that election Democrats rolled to victory in 27 of 34 Senate Seats and gained 37 seats in the House.

No one can read the tea leaves. Or see into the future. But if we’re watching the beginning of a Trump meltdown, Republicans are facing a kind of election they’ve never seen before.

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On Sunday, Ned Barnett wrote in The N&O that the governor’s race is virtually tied. Monday, I blogged that Roy Cooper is significantly ahead.

Question: Who should you trust?

Answer: Neither. We don’t know what we’re talking about.

Ned based his column on a PPP poll showing Cooper up by one point. My blog was based on a Marist/Wall Street Journal poll showing Cooper up seven.

I learned one important lesson from working in campaigns for nearly 40 years. If you’re not inside a campaign every day, seeing the internal polling and data, you don’t know what’s really happening.

Outside polls are interesting, and they can give you a general sense of things, if you look at the overall picture and know something about how to judge polls.

But nobody, especially the media, is spending the kind of money on polls and gathering the level of data the campaigns are.

And people inside the campaigns won’t tell you the truth.

If they’re leading, they don’t want to sound over-confident. If they’re losing, they lie.

And they’ll both say you need to give them more money.


Posted in: General
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A reader chided me for not writing lately about the NC Senate and Governor’s races. My excuse was that all the oxygen is taken up with “Trump said what today?” Then the Marist/Wall Street Journal poll last week showed Clinton, Ross and Cooper all leading. So here we go.

The stunner was Clinton leading Trump in North Carolina 48-39. If that comes to pass, or anything close, Clinton is winning a landslide nationally. She was also up 46-33 in Virginia.

Clinton’s lead explains why Deborah Ross is slightly ahead in the Senate race, 46-44. No TV ads have run in that race, and nobody knows Ross yet. Nor do they know much about Senator Burr, either.

Burr’s challenge may be to get some Clinton voters to vote for him. He’ll argue that, “no matter who is President (translation: I know it will be Clinton), you need me because it’s a dangerous world, I chair the Senate Intelligence Committee and I’ll keep you safe.” Ross has to counter that. She’ll also have to counter attacks on her work with the ACLU.

Burr is a stealth candidate. He’s low-key, has a relatively moderate image (though he votes hard-right) and doesn’t have the mean edge of a Trump, Thom Tillis or Jesse Helms. He’s always had good timing in his campaigns, so this may be the first year he swims upstream.

But he has a solid team around him, and his ads are always good.

A newcomer like Ross can be a nightmare for a long-time incumbent like Burr, but she has to build a team from scratch, prove herself as a candidate and run great ads. (The campaign doesn’t start until the TV ads start.) Ross also needs a strong boost from Clinton.

Cooper’s 51-44 lead shouldn’t be surprising. McCrory has been cratering for months now, since HB2 passed. That’s all a lot of voters know about him, and they know HB2 is hurting the economy. It also contradicts the “Carolina Comeback.”

TV ads have started in this race, and Cooper has the best of it so far. The Republican ads attacking Cooper are typical negative ads, and voters have seen that movie before. Cooper’s “Raise Your Hand” ad is a better negative, i.e., a negative ad that doesn’t sound or feel like one.

McCrory has a good positive ad talking into the camera, sitting soft-focus by himself in the Mansion. Cooper countered that with a positive spot featuring his wife and three daughters.

Cooper’s campaign showed an ability to counterpunch and do so quickly. When McCrory attacked him on the crime lab, Cooper shot back the next day with a tough response ad. That one looked like it was already in the can.

An incumbent who trails a challenger at this point in the campaign is in real trouble, and that’s McCrory.

Best way to sum it up: Democrats would like to vote today.

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Let Hillary pack the Supreme Court, Tom said, and the country’s kaput.

And that’s the way he sees it: Voting for Hillary’s wrong. Voting for Trump’s wrong. But voting for Trump is less wrong.

But does being less wrong make it right?

Every evil, lesser evil or greater evil, Spencer said, comes with a price.

I’d rather pay the lesser price.

What about the old idea that having faith means not choosing a lesser evil?

That’s not practical in a Presidential election.

I doubt you’ll find much salvation among lesser evils.

Albert, listening, interrupted. He said three forces are at work in this election. We’ve got a pretty good idea, he said, what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are going to do. Why not wait awhile to see what the Hand of God does?

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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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