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Entries for 'Gary Pearce'

12
Political consultants are used to hearing – and ignoring – clients (and their friends and family) say: “People here don’t like negative ads. They don’t work.”
 
But now there may be something to that argument in the Triangle media market. Exhibit A: The failure of the Republican attack strategy against Robin Hudson. Exhibit B: Clay Aiken’s victory in the 2nd District primary.
 
Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to argue that negative ads don’t work. They do – or they can. But there is something going on here that political strategists better acknowledge, understand and use. Or pay a high price.
 
We are now probably the most sophisticated consumers of political advertising in America. Since 2008, we have seen more ads than anybody anywhere. And now the Triangle – and especially Wake County – is perhaps THE most important political battleground in the nation. So we’ll see more this year.
 
We’re especially sophisticated when it comes to evaluating negative ads. We’re skeptical when an ad claims that a judge “sided with child molesters.” That didn’t pass the smell test.
 
In Clay Aiken’s case, Keith Crisco’s negative ad may have hurt Aiken AND hurt Crisco AND helped Toni Morris.
 
This fall, strategists must recalculate their negative ads. The old formula of dark music, doctored photos, ominous music and outlandish claims not only may flop, it may create a backlash.

 

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08
I’ve been in politics longer than Clay Aiken has been alive (38 years vs. 35), but he took me to school this week.
 
Everything I’ve learned tells me that if (A) you’re massively outspent by your opponent and (B) he runs three or four ads to your one and (C) one of those is a negative attack ad that you can’t afford to answer, then (QED) you lose.
 
But Aiken won. (No, the final count isn’t done. But it’s over.)
 
How? Well, some people say it’s just name recognition and personal popularity. Or maybe the Colbert Bump. Or all the Clay fans.
 
But there may be something else here – and a lesson for us all.
 
A couple of analysts have said the campaign relied solely on name recognition. Not true. In the final weeks, short of money, the campaign had one big asset: Clay Aiken and his voice.
 
Not his singing voice. But a voice that showed he knew the issues and the people in his district.  A voice that is distinctly different from the stale, bitter rhetoric of other politicians. And, above all, a positive voice in a negative din. Amid the ugly glut of attack ads in the final days, you heard one positive voice: Clay Aiken’s.
 
He also talked to people all over the district. He went on Colbert and MSNBC (true, venues that weren’t available to other politicians). He had a microphone, and he used his voice.
 
And there was one other thing: In an anti-politics age, Aiken was the anti-politician.
 
Don’t underestimate him again. I sure won’t.

 

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06
A reader notes the irony of Republicans rejecting Common Core because it’s from Washington, or “Big Government” or President Obama. The implication is that state- and local-level thinking is by definition better.
 
He points out: “The irony is that the GOP resists Washington’s direction while its leaders in North Carolina warmly embrace the political guidance and inspiration of a talking head like Sean Hannity (a New York entertainer, for goodness sakes) and happily introduce legislation conceived and drafted elsewhere by the infamous ALEC.”
 
Then this morning’s N&O points out that the bill to let students attend any public school in the state “has similar language to one proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a largely private conservative group backed by major corporations.”

 

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05
Selling the state helicopter may make dollars and sense, but Governor McCrory is totally missing the Helicopter Coolness Factor.
 
Nothing says cool like that sleek bird swooping down from the sky someplace far from Raleigh. Crowds gawk, school kids go gaga and cameras go click. When the copter comes, Big News is happening.
 
Nobody gets excited watching the state plane land. Even a convoy of State Troopers and black Suburbans wheeling in pales beside the chopper landing.
 
Especially in a natural disaster. The Governor gets to hop out, wearing khakis, boots and a work shirt. The rotor wash musses his hair, he squints through the blowing dust and grass and you know he’s there on the scene to see first-hand what’s happening so he can whip back to Raleigh, summon the awesome resources of the state and Take Action for the Victims. Being escorted by serious-looking guys in starched uniforms makes it even cooler.
 
Lyndon B. Johnson got Copter Cool. Robert Caro tells the story in Means of Ascent, where he recounts LBJ’s 1948 race for the U.S. Senate. Lyndon hired a helicopter to haul him around the state, knowing it would draw crowds everywhere.
 
Plus, there’s this. Flying in the helicopter gives a Governor a different view of the state. You’re above ground, but not so high you can’t see trees, people, cars and communities. Every flight reminds you: This is a great, beautiful and busy place. It’s my job to keep it that way.
 

 

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02
Paul Tine is a rare and endangered species: a centrist Democrat who represents a Republican-leaning district in the N.C. House. The Democratic Party needs him – and more like him.
 
I met Paul for the first time at a fundraiser this week. He’s young, smart and candid. I know his district, House 6, which covers Dare, Hyde, Washington, and parts of Beaufort County. It has some of the poorest parts of the state, along with the beach, resort and retirement areas of Dare.
 
He was straightforward in telling his liberal-leaning audience that the issues important to them aren’t always what his constituents care about. They’re worried about just getting from Point A to Point B in places that depend on ferries that get delayed, bridges that get shut down and roads that get washed out.
 
Listening to him, it struck me that if he were in politics for personal ambition alone, he’d probably be a Republican. They’d love to have an articulate, attractive businessman with his record and family – his wife Whitney, who may be a better politician than he is, and their two sons.
 
So he’s got guts and principles, and I like that.
 
And I liked the karma. The reception was at the home of Joyce Fitzpatrick and Jay Stewart. Joyce and Jay bought the house from Al Adams, the former state representative from Raleigh. Al was Terry Sanford’s law partner and protégé. I suspect Terry had been in the house talking politics more than a few times.
 
To channel my inner Lloyd Bentsen: I knew Terry Sanford. Terry Sanford was a friend of mine. I worked with Terry Sanford. And I know what Terry would have said if he’d been there: “We need Paul Tine. And you need to help him.”
 
Listen to Terry. Help Paul. Click here.

 

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01
I received a response from Art Pope to my blog yesterday (“Rich and Ruthless”). He said: “Feel free to post this to your web site.” I am happy to reprint it in full below, and I thank Art for responding – and for reading:
 
It is a rough game, but it has not cost me millions.
 
Gary,
 
In some ways I get your post Rich and Ruthless, which included the statement "Art Pope learned that lesson. For 20 years, he pumped millions into the John Locke Foundation. He got nowhere. Starting in 2010, he pumped millions into independent campaigns, and he started winning."
 
But apparently even your normally clear vision gets blurred by the being exposed to others' kool-aid.
 
The simple fact is that I have never, in my entire life, cumulatively, even including donations from my company, donated a total of a single million, much less millions plural, into independent campaigns or candidate campaigns. 
 
You will have to look to the NC Democratic Party candidates and donors, such as Erskine Bowles and John Edwards, to find someone in North Carolina who literally spent millions plural on campaigns.
 
And I have not contributed a dime or otherwise been involved at all in the NC Supreme Court primary, much less with the "blistering attack" on Justice Robin Hudson.
 
 
Yours truly,
 
Art Pope

 

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30
Democrats contemplating a comeback need to contemplate this. The Republican Party is spending at least $650,000 on “a blistering attack” against Justice Robin Hudson of the state Supreme Court.
 
Democrats need to face a sobering reality: They are up against a rich and ruthless opponent, one who will spend any amount and say anything to seize and hold power.
 
You can whine about it, you can complain about money in politics or you can hope that nobody believes an ad that accuses Hudson “of siding with child molesters.”
 
None of that does any good. There is only one solution, one antidote to the Pope-Koch Axis of Evil. Some rich, hard-headed individual who cares about North Carolina needs to step up, see what works and put up the seed money.
 
What works are independent-expenditure ads that destroy the opponent. That’s what politics has come to, like it or not.
 
Art Pope learned that lesson. For 20 years, he pumped millions into the John Locke Foundation. He got nowhere. Starting in 2010, he pumped millions into independent campaigns, and he started winning.
 
This is not rocket science. But it’s expensive, and it’s a rough game.

 

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29
The ice melting under Republicans’ feet isn’t climate change, it’s Obamacare. The issue on which they bet the house this year may be disappearing.
 
A poll this month in North Carolina, Louisiana and Kentucky found that, while people don’t like Obamacare, they want Congress to improve it, instead of repealing and replacing it.
 
Republicans running against the Affordable Care Act now have the same problem the President and Democrats had in passing it: Nobody knows what it is or what it does. It’s complicated, and the public is confused. So it’s hard to pin down – and separate out from health care’s other problems – what the Act does, good or bad.
 
It also may be that people are just tired of hearing about the whole thing.
 
Now, there is still strong antipathy to President Obama and anything he does, has done or ever will do. That is set in stone, and it won’t go away.
 
But Republicans may find that the gift that kept on giving has stopped giving. Maybe they can start running against climate change – or the theory of evolution. They don’t believe in those either, according to a new PPP poll.
 

 

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28
This is a story guaranteed to go on a reporter’s wall – and to set teeth gnashing again in Chapel Hill.
 
The New York Times reported on the long-running battle between UNC-Chapel Hill and The News & Observer – and, specifically, investigative reporter Dan Kane. Kane comes off best, as in this passage:
 
“…Kane is a polarizing figure, even outside the bloviating world of online outrage, as much as it is possible for someone as seemingly mild mannered as he is to rouse strong opinions. Some Chapel Hill alumni, faculty members and readers say that his paper, known locally as the N&O (and sometimes as the Nuisance and Disturber), has done a great public service in forcing the university to investigate and confront its past mistakes….
 
“Others more or less wish Kane would just go away. This category includes Tar Heels fans and alumni outraged at what they say are his wrongheaded efforts to link the academic scandal to the sports program; North Carolina administrators who, he says, no longer take his calls; and faculty members who believe Kane is looking for Watergate-style sports-related conspiracies that simply do not exist.”
 
But the last three paragraphs of the story illustrate both UNC’s problem – and the possible solution:
 
“’We admire the News & Observer’s long tradition of fair-minded journalism; we just wish they would practice it more often,’ the university’s newly appointed vice chancellor for communications, Joel Curran, said in a statement. ‘In our case, the paper seems more content to rehash old news rather than report new solutions.’

“Not surprisingly, Kane sees it differently.

“’They have done all kinds of things,’ he said. ‘But what’s left unanswered is how this all happened, and what actually happened. That’s where the battle forms. It’s like that old saying about history — if you don’t understand it, you’re doomed to repeat it’.”
 
UNC’s statement was needlessly antagonistic. Kane’s comment suggests that the university gets credit for what it has done, but it needs to simply come clean about what happened in the first place – who, what, where, when, etc. – and then say what the university did or didn’t do about it.
 
With all its problems today – a hostile state government, deep budget cuts and the Gene Nichol affair – can’t UNC simply let the facts come out and the chips fall where they may? Nothing can be worse than this constant warfare.

 

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25
Will Governor McCrory stand up to the rising Republican revolt against Common Core (they call it “Obamacore”)?
 
Rushing to pander to the Tea Party, Republican legislators who once embraced the standards now denounce them. The philosophy seems to be: “Everybody should be as dumb as us.”
 
Chris Fitzsimon at NC Policy Watch summed up the Governor’s dilemma in a tweet: “Governor McCrory supports Common Core; so does his SBOE Chair Bill Cobey; Would McCrory veto bill ending Common Core?”
 
If McCrory stands firm, instead of folding, will he face a primary challenge in 2016 from Lt. Gov. Dan Forrest?
 
Grab a seat and some popcorn. This will be interesting.

 

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