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17

“It’s the economy, stupid.” (Sign in the 1992 Clinton war room.)

For Trump, it’s always about Trump. For his acolytes, it’s all about Trump. For Steve Bannon, 2018 is all about Trump (so he can get back into the game, the news and the money).

Democrats, don’t take the bait.

Voters, real people, have strong opinions about Trump. For and against. But for them it’s not all about Trump. In fact, Trump making it all about Trump is his Achilles heel.

The vulnerability shows in his tawdry Twitter contretemps with this Omarosa person. That hissing contest tells us Trump cares more about his petty grudges and personal fights than about the real problems Americans face.

It doesn’t matter how loyal and passionate Trump’s base is if swing voters conclude that he doesn’t care about things like, let’s just say, jobs, incomes, health care, education, infrastructure, housing costs, college costs, retirement costs and even little things like trade war consequences, Russian interference in our democracy and climate change run amok.

Democrats across the country, thankfully, are nominating candidates who focus on just those issues. The candidates are diverse. Take two gubernatorial candidates: in Vermont, Christine Hallquist, a transgender person who was CEO of a rural electric cooperative, and in Wisconsin, Tony Evers, a mild-mannered, 66-year-old lifelong educator. Or two congressional candidates in North Carolina: Kathy Manning, a mom, business person and community leader, and Dan McCready, a Marine, small business owner and father of four.

Different people, same tune. Real people, real problems, real solutions.

Republican primaries aren’t about that. There’s only one test. Who is most like Trump, and who does Trump like most?

Let them go that way. For Democrats, let’s go back to Clinton-Bush ‘92 for a lesson. In January 1991, after the Gulf War, President Bush had a 90 percent approval rating. In November 1992, he got 40 percent of the vote. What happened? Well, Americans believed that if he won a war he could fix the economy. If he wanted to. But he didn’t fix it. Ergo, he didn’t care.

Today, that risk faces Trump and his Republicans. With one big difference. He starts at 40 percent approval.

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15

Politics is volatile and unpredictable, but one iron law prevails: The pendulum always swings back the other way.

The last big swing was 2010. That was the first mid-term after the stunning election of a new kind of President whose first two years in office drove his opponents bonkers – and to the polls.

2018 is the first mid-term after the stunning election of a new kind of President (to say the least) whose first two years in office are driving his opponents bonkers – and to the polls.

North Carolina politics today has a lot of Republicans who rode in with the 2010 tide. Some of them think the world will always be this way.

Not.

Some of them know the pendulum will swing. Which explains the constitutional amendments aimed at gutting all future Governors and making the legislature all-powerful.

But, as former Republican Governor Jim Martin warned in opposing the amendments, “The pendulum can always swing back the other way.”

It can. It will.

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09

A sharp-eyed TAPster noticed a big difference between two potential 2020 opponents:

Governor Cooper is rewriting the book on how to lead and strengthen a party, helping raise nearly $6 million into NCDP through Break the Majority to support legislative candidates statewide and break the Republican supermajority. Break the Majority is giving Democrats the financial backing to go toe to toe with Republicans — no small feat when Republicans have a supermajority in both chambers with all of the advantages of incumbency, including PAC money.

Meanwhile, Lt. Governor Dan Forest, the highest-ranking Republican in Raleigh and presumptive gubernatorial candidate, is raising millions into a party account that appears to just be for him, siphoning much-needed resources away from GOP candidates in a wave year and hanging them out to dry. Could that $1.3 million currently sitting on the sidelines save some seats that would be the difference between a supermajority — or even a majority?

Dan Forest has made no secret of his desire to be seen as the leader of the NC GOP. But if he uses the state party accounts to hoard resources in a rough election year, it’s doubtful many Republicans will be left to follow him.

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07

He’s the first announced Democratic presidential candidate for 2020. He’s the first to campaign in all of Iowa’s 99 counties. He has an intriguing personal story. He has what hits me as the right message.

And you’ve never heard of him. Because the media hasn’t picked up on him. You read it here first.

He’s John K. Delaney, a balding, 55-year old businessman and, since 2012, Maryland congressman. Quick bio: blue-collar family; Columbia University and Georgetown Law grad; launched and led two NYSE companies by age 40; named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2004; the only former CEO of a publicly traded company serving in the U.S. House.

A good friend works with him, so I started following Delaney on Twitter, (@JohnKDelaney). Where Trump uses Twitter to attack, demean and divide, Delaney uses it to talk sensibly, inclusively and optimistically. Here’s what caught my eye:

Trade: “Let’s be honest, Trade/Globalization have been very positive: it’s lifted billions out of poverty, driven innovation, made the world safer & lowered consumer costs. BUT our government FAILED to prepare our citizens for it & allowed TOO MANY to be left behind. THAT IS the problem.”

The Democratic Party: “…needs to be a ‘big tent’ – welcoming liberals, centrists, independents and even non-Trump Republicans. A commonsense agenda from a coalition that can WIN & GOVERN.”

Division: “Today the central question facing the United States is how do we take this divided nation, where American has been pitted against American, and bring us back together. This is the challenge of @TheDemocrats.”

Priorities: “Americans care more about their job, pay, cost of housing, healthcare, education, opportunities for their kids, retirement & security than they do about Mueller, Impeachment, Michael Cohen, Ivanka’s brand, HRC’s emails, progressive vs centrist. Let’s focus on what matters to them!”

“A real governing agenda: Universal healthcare, infrastructure, PreK-14, national service, national AI strategy, sign TPP, new AUMF, carbon pricing, expand EITC, repeal CUnited, end China IP theft, fix VA, end gerrymandering, lower deficit, immigration reform, digital privacy.”

And Trump: “It’s truly dumbfounding that one person, let alone the president of the United States, can be so dishonest so often.”

A middle-aged white entrepreneur – and a guy without great hair – might strike you as an unlikely Democratic nominee. Of course, JFK was unlikely in 1960, Clinton was unlikely in 1992 and Obama was unlikely in 2008. If we’re going to dump Trump, unite America and set a new course in 2020, we might want to look in some unlikely places.

Posted in: National Democrats
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06

If he doesn’t cooperate or get a pardon, he’s going to die in prison,” a former federal prosecutor told the Los Angeles Times, talking about Paul Manafort.

The Times also reported that, a month ago, Trump called Paul Manafort’s jailing “very unfair” and that, two days later, Rudy Giuliani said Manafort being treated unfairly was grounds for a Presidential pardon.

So here’s how politics works: Mueller indicts Manafort, Manafort lands in jail, and Rudy Giuliani dangles a pardon in front of Manafort.

 

Posted in: General, Issues
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03

All signs show a big Democratic year coming. Unless Putin hijacks it. Or Democrats blow it. Which we could do.

Politics today is volatile. And unpredictable. And subject to last-minute breaks. (See Jim Comey and Hillary’s emails.)

But we know the basic shape of the 2018 elections. Democrats are fired up and ready to vote. African-Americans are motivated, women are motivated, young people are motivated.

Republicans, not so much. Yes, Republicans love Trump. But he’s not on the ballot. And Trump-loving Republicans have little love for congressional Republicans who are on the ballot.

Independents are turned off by Trump. A lot of them voted for him because they didn’t like Clinton. Now, they’re disappointed in Trump. Or even scared by him.

In North Carolina, there’s no statewide race for Governor or Senator to motivate Republicans – or build a wall between Trump and legislative races. 

That’s why North Carolina Republicans stacked the ballot with deceptive (and deeply damaging) constitutional amendments. A plot that may work for them or against them.

What’s to stop the blue wave? Well, there’s Putin and his social media trolls. They’re pretty adept at turning us against each other. (Is this what Khrushchev meant when he said they’d bury us?)

Then there’s the biggest threat to Democrats: Democrats themselves. A wise old soul reminded me: “In 1998, when Republicans began impeachment proceedings against Clinton, it gave a real boost to Democratic turnout in NC and elsewhere. The result was that Democrats lost many fewer seats than would have been expected in the President’s second mid-term. All this loose talk about Democrats impeaching Trump can have the same effect if we’re not careful.”

He’s right. That Republican impeachment drive 20 years ago, led by soon-to-be-ousted Speaker Newt Gingrich, backfired. In North Carolina, it helped John Edwards unseat Senator Lauch Faircloth.

Let’s not repeat that history in reverse. Democrats win by attacking real problems that Trump, the Republican Congress and the Republican legislature are ignoring – or making worse. We don’t win by falling prey to Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Besides, we may be glad he’s on the ballot in 2020.

Posted in: General
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02

The media says Trump, by inflaming them, makes the most liberal Democrats more powerful. But what inflames Democrats isn’t Trump’s ideology – it’s Trump, himself. And when Trump insults and boasts the anti-Trumpsters protest and hurl insults right back – they’re the mirror image of Trump himself, proving the old adage: Those to whom evil is done do evil in return.

Posted in: General, Issues
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31

My print-free experiment with The News & Observer is clicking along well. Still, like any loyal reader, I’ve got some bones to pick.

First the good news. Even though I don’t get the paper in my driveway anymore, I still read it most mornings. I click on the website’s E-edition, then flip through the pages just like I used to. The downside: Since I’m usually eating breakfast, my iPad is covered with food stains.

Another thing going for them: They published one of my blogs on the opinion page (“Why Democrats shouldn’t try to out-Trump Trump”).

But not all is perfect. One day last week the number-one “Trending Story” was about a storm along the North Carolina coast that could become a hurricane. Since I was at OBX, I clicked on the story. Only to find it was two weeks old, from July 8. How could a “Trending Story” be two weeks old? Apparently, because a lot of people did what I did, click on a clickbait headline.

Does the N&O count clicks on outdated stories when it sells ads?

Next, I’m not sure what to think about The Influencer Series. It boasts, “We want to hear from you. What issues are most important to you this election year?” Many of the stories consist of Very Important People pontificating on Very Important Topics. Call me a cynic; I call it more clickbait. But I guess that’s what journalism today has become.

Last, and more serious, I do know what to think about the N&O’s decision to, as the editor put it, “part ways” with Anne Blythe. I don’t know Blythe well, but I’ve read her stories for years. She has struck me as a consummate professional and a superb reporter on stories involving courts, trials and legal issues.

The editor wrote, “We…examined more than 600 stories published since January 2016 (by Blythe). We found at least a dozen that contained phrases, sentences or, in some cases, whole paragraphs, lifted from other publications.”

A dozen out of 600? Containing “phrases, sentences or, in some cases, whole paragraphs” (like what?) “lifted from other publications” (like which?).

Insiders say Blythe wasn’t given a chance to explain or defend herself. Was that fair to a 30-year employee? Certainly, the N&O would demand more answers if the Governor, or Trump, fired somebody that way.

As an N&O alum, I care about how the paper treats its people. This decision strikes me as an unfair and unjust overreaction.

We all know the newspaper faces a challenge in today’s media marketplace and “fake news” climate. Long-time readers and fans, like me, are pulling for it. But we’re puzzled – and sometimes troubled – by some things we see. Online and in print.

Posted in: General
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30

In the middle of Donald Trump’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, a Playboy model sold the rights to her story about her affair with Trump to the National Enquirer for $150,000 – and when Trump learned what happened he sat down with his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to discuss buying those rights from the Enquirer so the story would never be published.

Two months later, just before the election, when the Wall Street Journal broke the story about the Enquirer’s $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal, reporters descended on Trump asking, Had he had an affair with McDougal? Did he know about the Enquirer’s payment to her?

Trump weighted his choices and had his campaign answer “No” to both questions. We have no knowledge of any of this, Hope Hicks told the Wall Street Journal.

That denial collapsed a few days ago when it turned out Michael Cohen had secretly recorded his conversation with Trump and the tape ended up in Robert Mueller’s hands.

On Twitter Trump immediately tore into Cohen, and Rudy Giuliani claimed on Fox and CNN that, somehow, the tape showed Trump had done nothing legally wrong.

But the question isn’t breaking laws – it’s honesty. Cohen’s tape proved Trump misled, intentionally – so can you trust Trump now when he says, ‘No President has been tougher on Russia than me,’ or ‘The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong?’

Posted in: General, Issues
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19

A reader offers this suggestion:

If I were a Democratic pundit I would, henceforth, refer to our President as “Putin’s Poodle.”

In the first place, it’s true. He respects and trusts Dictator Putin more than he respects and trusts American intelligence services.

In the second place, Trump can sure dish it out. You remember — “Cooked Hillary,” “Lying Ted.” He called Sen. Marco Rubio a “lightweight” and a “choke artist.” It would be interesting to find out how Trump likes the taste of his own medicine.

In the third place, it would constantly remind everyone that our President is a wet noodle when it comes to Russia and, worse, a loser.

Sooner or later at least one of the outrageous things Trumps does or says has to stick, and maybe this is it.

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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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