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01
A sharp-eyed TAPster thinks that Thom Tillis is stretching the truth (again) on his biography.
 
The TAPster notes that Tillis says in his new “Kitchen” ad: “I’ve been a paperboy, a short order cook, a warehouse clerk and eventually a partner at IBM.”
 
“Freeze it!” as Dick Vitale would say. The TAPster protests: “IBM doesn’t have ‘partners’.”
 
According to his bio on the Speaker’s Office website, “Thom was an executive with IBM Corporation where he led a management consulting practice focused on the financial services industry. Prior to joining IBM in 2002, Thom was a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the world’s largest accounting and management consulting firms.”
 
Partner, executive, who cares? Well, earlier, Tillis got caught saying he graduated from the “University of Maryland.” It turned out that he received a bachelor’s degree in 1997 from University of Maryland University College, “an accredited, distance-learning institution affiliated with the state’s university system.”
 
Maybe this is a difference without a distinction. But Tillis doesn’t need to get flagged again for being offsides on his own bio.

 

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29
WRAL’s Mark Binker says the claim that Senator Kay Hagan votes with President Obama 95 percent of the time is “something of karmic payback for Hagan, who benefited from a similar claim leveled against then-Sen. Elizabeth Dole in 2008.”
 
There is a little-noted back story to the Dole ad: It wasn’t really about voting percentages. It was about age. And it was a devastatingly clever attack on Dole.
 
At the time, serious-minded fact-checkers focused on whether the ad, sponsored by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was correct when it said Dole ranked 93rd in effectiveness in the Senate and voted with George Bush 92 percent of the time.
 
But watch the ad (it’s in Binker’s story) and listen to the two old codgers rocking on the porch. One says, “I’m telling you, Liddy Dole is 93.” The other replies, “I heard she’s 92.” At the end, one asks, “What happened to the Liddy Dole we knew?” The other says, “She’s just not a go-getter like you and me.”
 
The subtle but powerful message: Liddy Dole is too old. Her time has passed.
 
Now, a direct hit on her age (she was 72 in 2008) would have backfired. But the sly hit worked.
 
So don’t expect the 95 percent hit on Hagan by Tillis’ campaign to work like the 2008 ad did. For one thing, voters suspect – as Binker’s fact check shows – that the 95 percent includes a lot of minor votes.
 
Hagan and her allies have run a brilliant campaign so far. They’ve portrayed her as a moderate (“just right, just like North Carolina”) and they’ve painted Thom Tillis into a box with an unpopular legislature in Raleigh.
 
This attack won’t change that.

 

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27
Before a hurricane brushed the coast, Governor McCrory warned us not to put on our “stupid hats.” Then Hillary Clinton criticized President Obama’s foreign policy for not being more visionary than “don’t do stupid stuff.”
 
Well, call me stupid, but I’m so confused by the world today that “don’t do stupid stuff” sounds pretty smart.
 
ISIS or ISIL (which one is right?) is beheading people, so we may go back into Iraq on the same side as the Syrian government, which we don’t like. Islamic terrorists all over the place want to attack us or take us hostage, but we don’t want to pay ransom. Young Americans go to the Mideast to join the jihad, kill people and sometimes blow themselves up. Egypt and the UAR attack somebody in Libya, and we’re not happy about that. Israel and the Arabs are at war again, or in a cease-fire again, or not. Then you’ve got the Russians and the Crimeans and the Ukranians at each other’s throats. The Chinese are doing something in the ocean somewhere. And I can’t keep the Sunnis and the Shiites straight.
 
The world made sense when there was the USA and the West on the side of good and the Soviet Union on the side of evil.
 
Now Obama's critics want him to "do something." But remember what happened the last time a President (namely George W. Bush) decided to “do something” (namely, start two wars that lasted a decade). That looks stupid in retrospect.
 
I like having a President who’s in no rush to put on his stupid hat.

 

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27
When the pollster asked voters, Who should pay for the coal ash cleanup, Duke Energy or consumers? the answer came back loud and clear: Voters had no doubt. Almost to a man they said Duke Energy.
 
Now that didn’t mean that was the right – or fair – answer.
 
But it did mean any legislator who disagreed was going to have to give voters a good practical or theological or economic or political reason that changed their minds because, otherwise, the moment he said he wanted consumers to pay for the clean-up (in the form of higher electric bills) he’d be committing the political equivalent of walking in front of a firing squad.
 
The Republicans decided not to give voters a reason to change their minds – and the Democrats didn’t need too.
 
Because the moment Duke Energy called for higher electric bills, whether Roy Cooper and Company saw that as corporate wolves preying on hapless sheep or whether they, more practically, asked themselves, Who do we want to stick with the bill – six million voters or one corporation – they immediately rolled out a law saying Duke should pay every penny. And, a month later, when Duke reported a $600 million quarterly profit it looked like the Democrats were standing on solid ground.
 
The Republicans headed down a different track. They didn’t say they wanted six million voters to pay for the coal ash cleanup but they did kill the Democrats’ law dead in its tracks – then passed a law of their own saying Duke Energy couldn’t ask the Utilities Commission for a rate increase for four months  (until January 15) which created two problems.
 
First, a voter who didn’t want his electric bill raised now didn’t want it raised after January 15 either. Second, the Democrats had given voters an unequivocal no rate increase pledge while the Republicans had said let’s wait until after the election and see.
 
I reckon that makes it all but certain before long we’re going to see ads saying Republicans sided with Duke Energy – and then Republicans are going to need to give voters a darn good reason why it’s necessary or right or fair for them to pay to clean up the coal ash ponds. Beyond that, in November, when voters troop to the polls there may be just one question left: Which do they dislike more? Obama? Or paying $10 billion more in electric bills?
 

 

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26
It’s refreshing to see real brains working on the other side of the political aisle, rather than just mouths mouthing talking points. (In fact, it’s refreshing to see that on your own side.)
 
So this “Tsunami Watch” memo by my Republican pollster friend John McLaughlin and his brother Jim caught my eye. The subhead is “Polling results cast doubt on an anticipated midterm GOP wave.”
 
The memo quotes Carter, which makes it even more credible.
 
The Brothers McLaughlin ask: “With the president receiving such a negative rating, Obamacare being disliked, and the belief that the economy is still in a recession, why are so many voters still undecided and not breaking for Republicans? Why aren't these undecided voters breaking against the unpopular president and his party?”
 
Their conclusion: “Over four years ago….we identified the tea-party movement as a major asset to Republicans that would eventually help them regain their House majority. Since then, the president and his allies in the media have relentlessly attacked our friends and allies in the Tea Party, and four years of attacks have taken a toll. Today, the Tea Party is as polarizing as the president.”
 
They add: “Finally, we asked a question that longtime friend and successful Republican strategist Carter Wrenn suggested to get to the heart of the deadlock: ‘A lot of Americans are fed up with typical Washington politics. Who do you think is most responsible for our broken political system?’ The plurality of voters, 43 percent, say both Republicans in Congress and the Tea Party, versus President Obama and the Democrats in Congress. Only 26 percent blame Obama and the Democrats....Most of those who are undecided for Congress, 65 percent, now blame both parties. Among the undecided voters, only 16 percent blame the Democrats and only 12 percent blame the Republicans. As long as these undecided swing voters are blaming both parties, they will remain undecided for Congress and deflate the midterm tsunami.”

 

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25
Ten years ago this month, Barack Obama first streaked across the political skies with a rousing Democratic Convention speech in which he famously proclaimed there wasn’t a red America and a blue America, only one United States of America.
 
Today President Obama presides over an America bitterly divided between red and blue. He doesn’t seem at all happy about it, and nobody seems happy with him. He couldn’t even summon up a moving speech on race after Ferguson, always his go-to specialty.
 
He has visibly aged, and he seems dispirited and disengaged. Red and blue America alike slammed him last week for going golfing after denouncing the beheading of a journalist.
 
The state of our political discourse today is that some people seem angrier about him golfing than about these savages beheading a human being and broadcasting it to the world. Nevertheless, the President would have been well advised to take a mulligan on that tee time.
 
All Obama has done in six years is get us out of two bloody wars, save the economy from free fall and begin bringing down the deficit that George W. Bush gave us after inheriting a budget surplus from Bill Clinton. But no good deed goes unpunished.
 
Even Democrats pile on him now: He’s not spending enough time with us! He hasn’t made all those divisions go away! They seem torn between missing Bill and wishing for Hillary.
 
Republicans oppose anything he does and stop anything he tries to do, then blame him for getting nothing done. If they win the Senate this year, imagine how productive the next two years will be.
 
For Democrats, the upside of Republicans controlling both houses of Congress will be the certain election of a Democratic President in 2016. As the GOP proved in North Carolina, they will overreach.

 

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22
You had to be here in the 1950s to appreciate how much Raleigh and Wake County have changed on the way to one million people. And, to this old-timer, it’s a much better place today.
 
We were poor, provincial, rural and racist to the core. Today we’re affluent, global in outlook, urban and suburban, and a much more tolerant place for all races, backgrounds and lifestyles.
 
It didn’t just happen. Some people – like my friends (and heroes) Tom Bradshaw, Wade Smith, Terry Sanford, Jim Hunt, John Winters and many, many others – made tough decisions that weren’t popular. But look where they got us. Ask yourself whether today’s leaders have the same combination of drive, vision and sheer guts.
 
When people hear I grew up in Raleigh, they often ask: “Inside or Outside the Beltline?” Well, I’m not OTB or ITB; I’m PB (pre-Beltline).
 
Before I started school, we lived in a new development called Northside, because it was on the northern edge of town. Today it’s the area around J.Y. Joyner School, near the car dealerships and fast-food shops along Wake Forest Road. We played in the woods around Crabtree Creek. It was nothing but country.
 
When we moved to west Raleigh, I went to Lacy School. It was a Raleigh City School even though it was outside the city limits, which ran along Brooks Avenue down the hill from our house. Wade Avenue ended at Dixie Trail. Just ended. You took Highway 70 to Durham and points west.
 
There was no North Hills, no Crabtree Valley. The only thing the same is that downtown is (again) booming. Back then, the only places to go shopping or to movies was downtown or Cameron Village.
 
Raleigh was smaller than Durham. But when RTP caught on, our city fathers had the sense to build middle-class neighborhoods to attract the new transplants. (We joked that it was called North Hills because everybody living there was from the North.) Then local leaders had the sense to merge the city and county schools and build the kind of schools that smart people coming to RTP wanted for their kids. Raleigh boomed, and Durham fell behind.
 
Of the numbers used by the N&O to show how much we’ve changed since 1960, perhaps the most striking is this: Then, of adults 25 and over, 12.7 percent had bachelor’s degrees. Today it’s 47.6 percent.
 
Then we were 74 percent white. Today it’s just over 61 percent. Then our rural population was almost 37 percent. Today it’s 6 percent.
 
Yes, this place is busier, more crowded and sometimes more maddening than it was then. A lot of people I grew up with will shake their heads and say, “It’s just not like it used to be here.”
 
They say that like it’s a bad thing.

 

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20
As much as I respect Rob Christensen and the political experts he talked with in today’s column, I disagree with their conclusion that the money spent in the U.S. Senate race has had “little effect.”
 
In fact, I think the ads by Senator Hagan – and on her behalf – have painted Thom Tillis into a corner that he will have trouble escaping.
 
Granted, the movement is small, because the electorate is so polarized. But the shift is small because the pool of swing voters is small.
 
The ads against Tillis – aided by what is happening in this never-ending legislative session – have successfully linked him with two of the most unpopular groups in politics today: the Tea Party and the legislature. And the damage gets worse every day the legislature stays in town.
 
Nor does it help that Tillis can’t get a bill through his own chamber.
 
Maybe he should try a new message: “I’m a leader in a dysfunctional legislature, so I’ll fit right in in Washington.”

 

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20

 

According to the Census Bureau, back in the fall of 2011 without knowing it we crossed a kind of Rubicon.
 
Back then – during the last quarter of 2011 – 101,716,000 people had full time jobs while 108,592,000 people were receiving payments from welfare programs and, if that sounds like skating across thin ice, there’s more to the picture: 101,439,000 people were receiving Social Security, Medicare and unemployment compensation.
 
When you eliminate the overlap between the two groups, according to the Census Bureau, the number of people receiving government benefits climbs to 151,014,000.
 
151,000,000 people receiving benefits. And 101,000,000 people working.
 
Can that last?

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19

 

About one minute after sitting down Sean launched off into a tirade saying the border children ought to all be shipped home – then he stopped and was asked, Suppose one of those children fled El Salvador (or wherever) because she’d been repeatedly gang-raped – would you send her home too?
 
He said, Absolutely. Yes. She broke the law.
 
Now if someone waved a magic wand and suddenly put the power in your hands to settle the fate of the border children would you ship them all home – knowing you could be sending one back into the arms of a rapist?
 
That’s a question conservatives don’t like to hear and there’s a similar question liberals don’t like to hear: Would you allow all the border children to stay, even if you knew you’d be letting a gang member who crossed the border to evade the law settle in America for the rest of his life?
 
Finding a victim fleeing terror means a Republican can’t say, They’re lawbreakers, send them all home, andfinding a gang member makes it harder for a liberal to say, Keep them all here.
 
This is a peculiar debate and the roadblock isn’t immigration or just immigration: It’s our odd (and near total) incapacity to address a not very complicated moral question except with black and white answers like ‘send them all away’ or ‘keep them all here.’

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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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