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14
Some two-score years ago, I started going to the National Governors Association winter meetings in Washington. These were at the time great bipartisan policy wonk-fests, three days of earnest discussions about issues, ideas and innovations, with plenty of after-hours barroom political gossip.
 
Three young governors stood out at the time (during the day sessions, at least; none of them drank): Jerry Brown, Bill Clinton and Jim Hunt.
 
So I was struck this year when Jerry Brown was elected to his fourth term as Governor of California, Bill Clinton campaigned gleefully across the country in anticipation of Hillary’s presidential run, and Jim Hunt was the most-sought after Democratic headliner across North Carolina.
 
All three have graduated from ambitious young men to senior statesmen, admired for what they did in office, emulated as political icons and still in demand.
 
What did they have – and still have?
 
First is a zest for politics. They live it and breathe it. They’ll stop only when their hearts stop beating. And they love it not just for the game, but for what you can do for people through politics.
 
Second is an innate gut feeling for what moves people, what people care about and what people want from their leaders. Hunt and Clinton always shared a human warmth; Brown was California Zen cool, but then he got a wife and a dog and became almost human.
 
Finally, they’re all smart, and they never stop learning. They read voraciously, vacuum up ideas and information, and think.
 
For any aspiring young pol who wants to be a four-term Governor, a President or at least a much-admired senior statesman in four decades, you’ve got your road map.

 

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13
Carter and I spoke Wednesday at a post-election panel sponsored by the Public School Forum, a group of education advocates. I suggested they have nothing to worry about in the coming legislature, since Republicans ran as Democrats, promising to raise teacher pay to the national average and improve the public schools.
 
Tom Murry, who once called the NCAE “union trash,” even handed out Election Day cards saying he was endorsed by the NCAE. He wasn’t. He lost anyway.
 
On education, then, Republicans ran to the left. Now, will they govern to the left – higher teacher pay and more money for the schools? Or to the right – toward vouchers, charter schools and abandoning standards?
 
Governor McCrory’s post-election comments suggested he might go left on issues like Medicaid expansion.
 
But Senator Berger made clear which way he’s going. His first order of business is letting magistrates refuse to perform same-sex marriages.
 
Two years from now, in an expanded presidential-year turnout, Democrats will be sure to hold Republicans to promises made this year.
 
Education was the issue that kept Senator Hagan within two points of Thom Tillis. You can count on it being front and center in a year with a governor’s race.

 

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11
The would-be undertakers in the media and even within the Democratic Party need to cancel their burial plans. The patient’s charts show a strong pulse.
 
North Carolina is the only state in the South – and one of few nationally – where Democrats gained legislative seats despite the national wave. Check out this chart from Chris Kromm at the Institute for Southern Studies. He reports that Republicans gained 60 legislative seats in the South; North Carolina was their only net loss. And apparently New York was the only state in the nation where Democrats made more gains in the state House.  
 
Also, Democrats in House races here knocked off two rising GOP stars, potential speakers and top fundraisers - Tom Murry and Tom Moffitt. Rep. Paul Tine defied a Republican wave in Dare County to win reelection.
 
Also, consider the narrow margin of Senator Hagan’s loss, close finishes in state Senate races, the commissioners’ sweep in Wake County and statewide wins by Democratic judicial candidates.
 
None of this is to minimize that 2014 was a bad year for North Carolina Democrats. Nor underestimate how steep the climb back will be. But “all is lost,” as Harrison Hickman noted (see yesterday’s blog), is self-defeating and a vast overstatement.
 

 

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10
After last Tuesday, Democrats need a psychiatrist as much as a political strategist.
 
Here’s helpful advice from my old friend and pollster extraordinaire Harrison Hickman, titled Top 10 Least Helpful Democratic Excuses.” Harrison, an NC native and CEO of Hickman Analytics, Inc. in Washington, says, “To learn from our landslide defeat, Democrats should avoid excuses that divert attention from the tasks required to prepare for the next round of elections.” Among his 10 examples:
 
"’All hope is lost.’ Party fundraising emails may say so, but it's not. Ask anyone who went through 1984, 1994, and 2010. Elections are cyclical, and we need to be ready for the next opportunities by learning from our mistakes and moving forward.”
 
"’If only ... [fill in the blank].’ In a wipeout of this magnitude, no one factor would have changed the outcome. A multitude of factors were at play, including many completely beyond the control of the campaigns wrecked by the wave.”
 
"’There's nothing we could have done.’ Actually there are plenty of things we could have done, but most of them should have happened months or years ago. Maybe nothing tactical in the closing month would have changed the outcome, but better messaging and performance leading up to it could have helped. Besides, this type of thinking is self-destructive and presents a horrible image to the audience we most need to convince. Voters who expect courage and performance from their leaders are not going to cast their lot with a party of defeatists.”
 
"’It's all about race.’ Racial attitudes are part of it, but they are not the only reason we lost badly. If we want voters to put us in charge of their government, understand that they expect performance. We simply have not delivered in ways that meet their needs and expectations.”
 
And lastly: "’But so-and-so said ....’ Here's a dirty little secret. With some notable exceptions, most of the people opining about what went wrong and what needs to change are no longer paid to run or advise major campaigns -- if they ever were. You know more about these things than so-and-so does, and you have a helluva lot more at stake in coming up with the right answers. So do it.”
 
Dr. Pearce’s Rx: Take all 10 to heart. 

 

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06
“Anybody who says they knew this was coming – Democrat or Republican, pundit or pollster – is lying,” a veteran campaign operative said Wednesday
 
The polls all missed it. Close races turned into routs. Narrow Democratic wins turned into Republican wins. Turnout models missed the mark, Early-voting hype was misleading.
 
Tillis consultant Paul Shumaker did tell donors last week that internal polls showed Tillis had caught up with Hagan.
 
The instant analysis that it was an anti-Obama vote. But why did it turn so suddenly at the end, when Obama had been the focus of Republican campaigns all year?
 
A theory: A combination of factors – in-state, national and international – came together in late October to exacerbate anti-Obama feeling, energize Republicans and swing most undecided voters to Tillis and the Republicans. Including gay marriage, ISIS, Ebola and the Hagan-stimulus issue, with “stimulus” being a code word for “Obama.”
 
A useful perspective came from a smart young field operative who, unlike many of us, spent a lot of time this year talking to real voters, especially undecided voters. Those voters have very little interest in politics, he noted. Consequently, “they don’t know the legislative candidates, they don’t follow the legislature, they don’t know much about Tillis and Hagan, they don’t know who holds the House or Senate. They know two big things: They’re not happy with the economy and the way things are going, and they know Obama is President.”

 

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05
North Carolina Democrats should push the pause, not panic, button.
 
It was, as George Bush famously said after the 2006 midterm, “a thumpin’.” It hurts like hell, especially when the other team spikes the ball and strikes a pose in the end zone. The temptation is to form up the circular firing squad and start shooting each other.
 
Instead, as Terry Sanford used to say, let’s have a council of war and figure out how to take the next hill.
 
Take it from a scarred old veteran: The seeds of victory often are sown in defeat. Democrats saw their boats swamped in 1984, 1994 and 2004. (What is it about years ending in 4?) Each time, two years later, a rising tide lifted all their boats to big victories.
 
Politics goes in waves these days, and the waves go national. As did this one. From the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast, it was a Republican tsunami. It was a vote of dissatisfaction and discontent with President Obama and the party that was seen as the Ins.
 
The miracle is that Kay Hagan came within less than 1.7 percent, while other Democrats were losing by 10 and 20 points or losing blue states like Maryland and Massachusetts. Legislative candidates like my man Tom Bradshaw came within less than 1 percent of surviving gerrymandering, incumbent money, tough voter laws and the national tide. State House candidates overcame those odds in Dare, Wake and Buncombe counties. Democratic judges, who didn’t have the burden of “Democrat” by their names on the ballot, won statewide. Four Democrats were elected county commissioners in Wake; all seven board seats are now held by Democrats.
 
In the Capitols in Raleigh and Washington, Republicans own it now. The euphoria of victory invites overreach, and there will be few Democrats to blame in 2016. Perhaps by then the public will be so enamored with the performance of state and national government, on the economy and education, that Republicans will win another big victory.
 
Or the tide may turn with a vengeance.

 

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04
The provost was heartbroken, the former faculty Chairwoman felt betrayed, and the poor tenured lambs on the faculty felt humiliated which, at the faculty meeting, bred a fervor not unlike a foot-washing Baptist in pursuit of the Devil which, of course, led to the demand the sinners – who’d caused the heartbreak and humiliation – be punished and the punishment the professors settled on was taking away the basketball team’s National Championship Trophies.
 
They also demanded that from then on they (the professors) and not the Chancellor would make the big decisions about sports at UNC  – like deciding how much liquor drinking is socially acceptable in the ‘Blue Zone’ at Carolina football games. The professors then rolled out of the meeting with high fine sense of purpose which rolled over into the newspapers but the professors had missed a key point: They’d gone too far. By disrespecting two totems sacred to just about every UNC Alum – whiskey and ole’ Roy’s Basketball Trophies.
 
Over in Chapel Hill they’ve got a hospital to cure the sick and a library to educate the ignorant and a long, rich tradition of being tolerant to a fault, but any professor who figures tolerance and open-mindedness justify giving up a basketball trophy had better be looking for a lot safer place to hide than an ivory tower.  


 

 

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03
It’s hard to sort out: Kaci Hickox sees healing the ill in Africa as a noble calling but protecting Americans from Ebola as pure villainy.
 
Ole Obama rides to Hickox’s rescue, saying Chris Christie’s a mean-hearted varmint stigmatizing heroes with his quarantine then, in his next breath, Obama announces the Army’s going to quarantine soldiers returning from the Ebola Zone.
 
So, now, Christie’s stigmatizing Hickox and Obama’s stigmatizing the Army. 
 
It’s like Alice Through the Looking Glass: Helping the Africans is noble. Protecting Americans is wicked. Quarantining soldiers is good. Quarantining Hickox is bad. Up’s down. And down’s up.


 

 

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01
Governor McCrory is the Missing Man in Republican campaign ads.
 
Thom Tillis campaigns with John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Mitt Romney. Wake County Republicans line up beside Sheriff Donnie Harrison.
 
But no Pat. No “endorsed by Governor McCrory” boasts. Not many rallies featuring the Gov. The only ads about McCrory attack him on coal ash.
 
He’s as scarce in GOP ads as President Obama in Democrats’ ads. Which says it all.
 
The Elon Poll found their job ratings about the same. McCrory’s are 37 approve, 47 disapprove; Obama’s, 40 approve, 52 disapprove.
 
Not a good sign for a Governor whose reelection battle begins Wednesday.

 

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31
Don’t ever say campaign ads aren’t educational. We’ve learned a lot this year, for example, about what judges do.
 
Judging (so to speak) from their ads, judges spend a lot of time reading things out of big books and copying them down on paper. They apparently must do this by hand, which seems laborious and time-consuming and may explain why it takes the courts so long to do anything.
 
This work may sound easy, but try doing it while sitting down in your choir robe.
 
Also, judges apparently spend a lot of time conducting serious conversations with serious-looking people who pay close attention to what they say. That makes sense, as the judge can throw them in the pokey for looking at His or Her Honor wrong. Many of these conversations occur when the judge is sitting at a bench, and some happen as they walk along marble-lined corridors.
 
I personally had no idea before this campaign what judges really do. So look for these qualities before you cast your ballot in the judicial races.

 

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