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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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Ole Francis De Luca over at the Civitas Institute released his latest poll and revealed an amazing fact – Donald Trump is receiving 32% of the African-American vote in North Carolina.

The poll took wing and flew across right-wing websites, hailed it as proof of ‘The Donald’s’ invincibility. Who else could win a third of the African American vote? they asked. No one. But Donald Trump.

And it would be shocking: No Republican has won the votes of a third of the African-Americans in North Carolina since, well, since Reconstruction. No one has even come close.

So is Francis’ poll an epiphany? A harbinger of a new day?

Let’s put it to a test.

Francis, would you care to make a wager?

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Another day, another idiotic outburst by Donald Trump, then another lame excuse that he was just kidding. But the Donald has raised an important question: Which American President is to blame for ISIS?

It’s George W. Bush.

True, Trump is so bad that W, his low-energy brother and his noble yet hapless father look good to us now. But let’s not get carried away.

It was George W’s decision, egged on by Darth Chaney and the Evil Neocons, to wreck Iraq after 9/11 even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. The result: thousands of young Americans killed and maimed, trillions of dollars wasted and the moral stature and respect that America commanded in the world on 9/12 squandered.

Not to mention leaving a vacuum that fostered ISIS, the chaos and killing in the Middle East today and a tsunami of immigrants in Europe.

It could get worse. A President Trump would be the most valuable recruiting tool ISIS could have. There would be a surge of new terrorists around the world and right here at home.

While we’re on the subject of Bush 43, let’s also remember he took office when the economy was booming, unemployment was low and the federal budget was running a surplus. He left us with the worst economy in 80 years, the highest unemployment in decades and the worst budget deficits in history.

If a decent, well-meaning fellow like Bush could do that much damage, think what Trump could do.


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A pundit on Fox News said, Trump flubbed during the primary and it didn’t matter. So why should it matter now?

Sounds logical.

But does the logic hold water?

Back during the primary when I’d turn on the television I’d see a debate stage full of Washington Republican politicians – and Ted Cruz and Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Like a lot of Republicans I was worn out with Washington Republicans – for years every time they made another deal with Obama the anti-Washington wave rolling through Republican politics got bigger and wider and deeper.

And no one on that stage sounded less like a Washington politician than Donald Trump.

The moment Trump opened his mouth and spoke that wave swept him up and because  the wave was powerful his flubs didn’t matter – what mattered was whipping those Washington politicians.

But that election’s over and done now and a new election is underway and the other day a commentator on the radio pointed out that Obama got 65 million votes in 2012 – so Trump has to get 70 million to win this election. Then he added: Trump got 13 million votes in the primary so he needs to add another 55 odd million.

And on that rock the pundits’ seemingly logical solid assumption about flubs sinks into a wobbly analogy: Because the question those voters are asking themselves is how risky will it be to elect Trump – and those flubs make it look pretty risky.

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Donald Trump is not some weird, one-time, election-year anomaly. He’s the logical product of a Fox News/Facebook society.

Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, put her finger on it. She said Trump is “unworthy of being our president” because of “his constant stream of cruel comments and…his attacks directed at people who could not respond on an equal footing.”

Why should “cruel comments and attacks” surprise us in a Presidential candidate? It’s exactly how we talk to each other and about each other in the cable-TV, online age.

Self-proclaimed media genius and reputed sexual predator Roger Ailes engineered the perfect money-making machine at Fox News by force-feeding anxious, angry and fearful viewers a 24/7 stream of anxiety, anger and fear. Often delivered by hot women in short skirts.

When we Boomers were kids, our parents warned us that watching too much television would warp our brains. Turns out they were right.

And look at how we talk when we’re online. Look at the ugly, spiteful things we say to and about other people. Look at the friends and families who unfriend, unfollow and fall out over politics.

The very things we would never say if we were writing a letter or talking to someone, we have no hesitation saying when we’re sitting on the sofa tapping away on our smart (?) phones and tablets.

I’m sure I’m guilty of it right here on this blog.

Surely the digital revolution empowered us to do great things. It also unleashed our worst selves.

What’s to stop us from getting even coarser and crueler, as Fox News and the left-wing wannabes egg us on?

In the end, you have to hope that the ultimate decency in people will prevail.

In the meantime, click off the TV and log off. Read a book or take a walk. We’ve got three months to go to Election Day.


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Hillary Clinton would be cruising to a landslide victory of historic proportions – if it wasn’t for her damn emails.

She had a great convention. She got a great bounce in the polls. She wisely stayed silent while her opponent attacked a Gold Star family, fought with his own party and made people question his mental stability.

Then she went out and started over-answering and over-explaining about her damn emails again. She revived the same old concerns about her truthfulness and trustworthiness that drag her down in the polls.

As a reporter once said about another candidate in another race, she “has the lawyer’s habit of exaggerating to make a valid point.”

Somebody needs to do an intervention. She needs a short, sharp answer, like:

“Email servers weren’t something I knew much about, but I know a lot about them now. I made a mistake, I’m sorry, and I learned my lesson.”

Then she can tell people who want to “lock her up” to zip it up.


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Six of us sat down for our weekly lunch and an ethical  perplexity landed on the table: Does a Republican have to defend Donald Trump, no matter what he says, because if he doesn’t he’s helping elect Hillary? Eric, an attorney, asked.

No one liked Hillary but no one liked Trump either and then Eric continued, Trump will appoint better Supreme Court Justices. He’s the lesser of two evils – and it seemed the ends of defeating Hillary justified the means of standing behind Trump to everyone except Richard – who asked:

Do you think Trump regrets his bragging and bullying and saying Ted Cruz’s father and Lee Harvey Oswald were friends?

I wouldn’t go that far, Eric laughed.

So isn’t it wishful thinking to think, Richard asked, those vices will sow seeds that bear good fruit?

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Sitting in a century old steakhouse staring out at the Brooklyn Bridge thirty years ago Hank Greenburg (the pollster not the baseball player) explained an election that could only happen in the grubby circus of New York politics: Given a choice between a Crook and a Fool, he said, voters take the Crook.

His theory was simple: You can predict what a Crook will do but you never know what a Fool may do.

Back then – during the final chapter of the Cold War – from where I sat in the world of southern politics I saw two kinds of candidates: Conservatives and everyone else. And Hank’s idea that crooks and fools had a unique role of their own to play struck me as perverse.

But three decades later Hank’s theory has stood the test of time: We have two New Yorkers running for President and the last fifteen polls show Hillary Clinton leading.

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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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