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16

The Raleigh political world is abuzz and agog! The legislature and the Governor are cooperating! Democrats and Republicans are working together on hurricane relief!! Oh, happy day!!!

Has a new age dawned? Have we entered an era of bipartisanship, brotherly love and dogs and cats living together?

Not so fast, my friend.

Pardon my cynicism, but there’s a simple explanation why the Republican legislature so quickly rubber-stamped Governor Cooper’s storm-relief package and so effusively praised his storm response.

One number explains it: 86 percent.

That’s the percentage of voters who said in a recent poll they approve of how Governor Cooper has responded to Hurricane Florence.

No politician is going to get in the way of an 86 percent approval rating three weeks before the election – and just days before early voting starts.

So, no, the millennium has not arrived. Politics as usual lives. Wait and see how things go in the post-election legislative session.

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01

Just as Hurricane Florence upended the Carolinas, Hurricane Kavanaugh has upended the 2018 elections.

Will there be a blue wave? Or will it look like that NASA photo of dark and dirty waters flooding into the ocean after Florence?

It comes down to who is maddest. Is it women (and men who support them) energized by #MeToo, inspired by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and enraged by Kavanaugh, Graham and Trump? Or is it men (and women who support them) angered by #MeToo, inspired by Kavanaugh and enraged by Democrats?

Mad white men (and women) elected Trump. A black President was hard for them to take. A woman President? No way.

Now Kavanaugh & Co. have stoked the same anger.

Kavanaugh’s shouting, sniffing, outraged rant Thursday gave new meaning to the term “sober as a judge.” He looked like an angry, red-faced drunk. He sounded more like a political hack than a paragon of judicial temperament.

But his performance may get him on the court. It also may stir up the same forces that elected Trump and have upended elections again and again over decades.

Don’t get complacent, Democrats. There are dark, dirty and dangerous waters swirling out there.

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27

I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. How can you not?

Her testimony was powerful, persuasive and painful. She clearly was traumatized by what Brett Kavanaugh did to her. Her life was derailed. And now she has to go through this.

If Republicans stick with Kavanaugh, they have only one way to go: “Well, what a fine man did when he was a drunk teenager shouldn’t be held against him now.”

My wife had the answer to that. If we do hold it against him, maybe boys and young men will learn a good lesson: What you do to a woman today can ruin her life – and yours.

Kavanaugh gave Dr. Ford a lifetime of trauma. The Senate shouldn’t give him a lifetime seat on America’s highest court.

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24

Governor Cooper excelled at his first three tasks in the wake of Florence: command (resources), communicate (be safe) and comfort (we’re with you for the long haul).

Now comes the long haul. And politics. And bureaucracy – federal, state and local. And inevitable human frustration at the pace of relief.

Nearly 20 years ago, after Hurricane Floyd, I watched a master of disaster at work: Governor Jim Hunt. But Florence is worse. The flooding is worse. The damage is worse; there’s been two decades of growth and development in low-lying, watery areas.

And the politics is worse. Hunt had a cooperative Democratic legislature. Cooper has a legislature determined to score political points on him. Hunt had a friendly, well-run FEMA to work with. Cooper has a North Carolinian heading FEMA, but he’s under fire for commuting home at taxpayers’ expense. We can only hope FEMA does better here than it did in Puerto Rico.

Most of all, Hunt had a friend and former fellow Governor in the White House, Bill Clinton. Cooper has a clueless clown who seemed most worried about Lake Norman and thought one storm victim was lucky because a boat washed up in his yard.

A lot of people never recovered from Floyd, and a lot of people will never recover from Florence. The process will be long, tedious and controversial. There will be a difficult reckoning of what should be rebuilt and where. Political knives are being sharpened, and scores will be settled.

Not to mention the debate about how climate change contributed to the size and ferocity of Florence. What about the storms to come?

Hard as it was 20 years ago, some things were easier. The legislature quickly appropriated $800 million in storm aid. Hunt later regretted that he didn’t ask for a tax increase for more.

He lobbied Washington hard for disaster money. He went there every week for seven weeks. He took a yardstick to show how much rain fell – three feet. He put together an aid request and took it to President Clinton.

The President asked, “How much is this going to cost?”

Hunt replied, “Mr. President, I think it’s going to take four billion dollars.”

Clinton laughed. “Well, what’s four billion dollars between friends?”

North Carolina got the money.

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17

The worst times bring out the best in us. Before we go back to bashing each other over politics, let’s salute all those who rose to Florence.

Salute first the responders who are always there first.

Salute the thousands of volunteers who saved lives (human and animal), served meals and succored those in need.

Salute the thousands of government employees who worked 12- and 18-hour days.

Salute the utility workers who risked life and limb – or worked long hours away from home – to get power restored, cable back on and that great essential, Internet service, back up.

Salute everyone who went to work so we could get gas, food and groceries.

Salute the media for heading into the storm so we would know what was happening. My go-to station, WRAL, did its usual extraordinary job. And, given all the complaining I’ve done, I salute the staff of the N&O. Despite depleted resources, they did an incredible job providing constantly updated reports online. A special salute to reporter Andrew Carter for that remarkable photo (iPhone, no less) of the New Bern man with his kitten, Survivor.

A salute to Governor Cooper and his team. They said the right things, set the right tone and were at the right places.

A salute to you all – and to many more not mentioned.

At some point, the waters will recede. Unfortunately, so will our spirit of sacrifice and shared humanity. We’ll start sniping, polarizing and politicizing.

But just as floodwaters leave their mark, maybe our storm memories will mark us. Maybe some politicians will see how we yearn to come together, not be driven apart. Maybe some leaders will speak to the best in us, not the worst.

That would be worth saluting.

Posted in: General
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11

Carter once said a wave election is like a hurricane. You know it’s coming. But you don’t know if it’ll be a Category 1 or a 5. And you don’t know if it’ll hit Wilmington or Nags Head – or everywhere.

We’ve got a big one coming at us now. We’ll worry about the election later.

Hurricanes can upend elections. Twenty-two years ago Monday, Hurricane Fran slammed us. Trees came crashing down, people lost power for weeks and Raleigh was a sea of green tarps on roofs.

We were in the middle of Jim Hunt’s fourth campaign for Governor, running against now-GOP Chair Robin Hayes. Fran blew away any chance Hayes had. For a month, nobody cared about politics. We took down our TV ads. Most people couldn’t see them, and if they could, they didn’t care.

People did see Governor Hunt, because he did what Governors should do. Just as he did after Floyd in 1999, he threw himself into disaster recovery. He pushed and prodded state and federal agencies. He made sure emergency personnel heard about people facing emergencies. And he dominated the news. Hayes couldn’t get a TV camera if he set himself on fire.

Here’s Lesson One for Governors (and Presidents) at times like this. Your job isn’t to talk about how well government is responding. Your job is to make government respond better. There’s always more to do, and people who are hurting don’t want to hear what a great job you’re doing.

George W. Bush learned that lesson the hard way after Katrina. And Trump? He doesn’t do empathy well. Maybe he’ll toss us some paper towels.

For now, take a break from politics. Nobody’s paying attention. They’re obsessively watching Greg Fishel and Jim Cantore, constantly refreshing their news feeds and clearing the stores of water and batteries.

Stay safe. Look out for your neighbors. People will lose homes, farms and livelihoods. Some may lose their lives, or lose loved ones. A lot of people will be at the low point of their lives. Be their high ground.

Posted in: General
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10

Independents blame both Republicans and Democrats for the political mess in Washington and, back when Obama was President, since they blamed Republicans least they voted for Republicans. But, now, with Republicans in power, Independents blame Democrats least – and vote for Democrats.

These three national trends – Democratic turnout up, Republican turnout down, and Independents favoring Democrats – are lifting Democratic candidates this election. George Holding’s race is an example: Holding is better known than his opponent, Linda Coleman, but neither is well-known – which means the national trends are determining which candidate many people are voting for – which explains why Holding, who has won in the past by 13 or 14 points, is in a close race this election.

The solution for Holding – the way he can overcome the Blue Moon trends – is issues. Since Independents and undecided voters aren’t enamored with either Republicans or Democrats, by debating the issues he and Coleman disagree on, Holding can give voters reasons not to vote for Linda Coleman. Which issues? Coleman’s support for Sanctuary Cities, her support for repealing the tax cuts and raising taxes, the threat that a Democratic Congress would raise taxes and increase government regulations, ending the economic recovery, and Coleman’s evasiveness when she was asked about her stand on ICE are examples.

One final caveat: These are the trends in this election now. And they’ll probably be the trends on election day. But, in politics, the unexpected happens. And, sometimes, when it does it turns the political world upside down again.

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08

This year, after four elections with Obama in the White House, the political world has changed. We’re in a Blue Moon election where Democrats are voting heavier than usual and where Republican voter turnout is likely to be lower than usual.

Independents blame both Republicans and Democrats for the political mess in Washington and, back when Obama was President, since they blamed Republicans least they voted for Republicans. But, now, with Republicans in power, Independents blame Democrats least – and vote for Democrats.

These three national trends – Democratic turnout up, Republican turnout down, and Independents favoring Democrats – are lifting Democratic candidates this election. George Holding’s race is an example: Holding is better known than his opponent, Linda Coleman, but neither is well-known – which means the national trends are determining which candidate many people are voting for – which explains why Holding, who has won in the past by 13 or 14 points, is in a close race this election.

The solution for Holding – the way he can overcome the Blue Moon trends – is issues. Since Independents and undecided voters aren’t enamored with either Republicans or Democrats, by debating the issues he and Coleman disagree on, Holding can give voters reasons not to vote for Linda Coleman. Which issues? Coleman’s support for Sanctuary Cities, her support for repealing the tax cuts and raising taxes, the threat that a Democratic Congress would raise taxes and increase government regulations, ending the economic recovery, and Coleman’s evasiveness when she was asked about her stand on ICE are examples.

One final caveat: These are the trends in this election now. And they’ll probably be the trends on election day. But, in politics, the unexpected happens. And, sometimes, when it does it turns the political world upside down again.

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07

This happened a long time ago but history repeats itself – and it’s repeating itself again today.

Twenty-eight years ago, in 1990, Jesse Helms’ campaign ran a negative TV ad about Harvey Gantt – and the ad didn’t work. We’d taken a poll which showed voters agreed with Jesse and disagreed with Harvey Gantt on the issue but when we told voters (in the ad) where Gantt stood it didn’t matter to them at all – so I asked the campaign’s pollsters and strategists, Why not?

There was a lot of head-scratching and frowning then one pollster said, Look Carter, you all have been running negative ads in North Carolina for a decade and you’ve spent who knows how many millions of dollars on those ads and they all look alike with the same music and a dramatic announcer and graphics with bright red captions so, now, the minute a voter sees one of those ads he thinks, ‘That’s just another political ad,’ and tunes it out.

He suggested making a comparison ad – without the melodrama and graphics and editorial comment – on the same issue that simply said, Here’s where Jesse Helms stands, here’s where Harvey Gantt stands, and that’s the choice.

That’s what we did. And this time the ad worked. The message got through.

The other day I looked at a lot of Super PAC ads and they looked and sounded a lot like that first ad we ran back in 1990 – that didn’t work. And, of course, during the last two elections here in North Carolina people have seen hundreds of those types of negative ads, so when they see one more they tune it out. What does work? Ads with people in them talking. And simple comparison ads.

To be continued…

Posted in: General
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07

More people say yes than no when asked whether they’d vote for George Holding because he supported the Republican tax cuts – but not as many more as you might expect.

On the other hand, when asked whether they would support Linda Coleman if they knew she wants to repeal the tax cut and raise taxes – voters say no, overwhelmingly. By a margin of 6 to 1. (Here’s a video – at 13:44 Coleman supports repealing the tax cut.)

Voters are slightly favorable to the Republican tax cuts. But overwhelmingly oppose tax increases.

Let’s look at one more issue. The economy has turned around. Job creation is at its highest it’s been in decades. And that matters to voters. If you ask: Would you support Linda Coleman if you knew she would vote with the Democrats in Congress to repeal the tax cuts, raise taxes and increase regulations on businesses, large and small, and the economic recovery will stop – their answer, again, is no. 60% of the voters would be less likely to vote for Linda Coleman while only 11% would be more likely. In fact, 27% of the people who are now voting for Linda Coleman would be less likely to vote for her.

To be continued…

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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. 
 
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