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North Carolina - Republicans

15
When I saw Kay Hagan’s first ad saying Thom Tillis was supported by the Tea-Party-leaning-Koch-Brothers I thought, Now, that’s odd – after all, the Koch Brothers weren’t on the ballot and no one cared a hoot who they supported.
 
But I was dead wrong.
 
Because it wasn’t the Koch Brothers who mattered – it was the Tea Party. Hagan had figured out Swing Voters disliked the Tea Party almost as much as they disliked Obama – so she set out to make Thom Tillis a Tea Partier and ten million dollars later Swing Voters (who still didn’t like Obama) were looking at Tillis and saying, I don’t like him either.
 
To be continued …

 

 

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15
Some perspective on the breathless reports that the National Republican Senatorial Committee is pumping another $6.5 million into Thom Tillis’ campaign: What does that buy, and what does it get you with still-undecided voters?
 
On the buy, it gets you about half what it would get you if you had bought the time weeks or months ago. TV ads are based on the free enterprise system. When demand goes up, the cost goes up. So a spot that you could have bought before for, say, $500 now costs you $1,000.
 
Then the second question: Given the flood of ads, from the Senate race and other campaigns, is anything new getting through to voters now?
 
Hagan’s campaign bet on spending big early. Tillis and his allies are betting big on spending late. We’ll see who’s right.

 

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15
Months ago, back when she started her campaign, Kay Hagan faced a knotty problem: She was going to get the Democratic base vote; her opponent was going to get the Republican base vote; but the Swing Voters didn’t like President Obama and, so, were on track to vote Hagan out of office.
 
Now, theoretically, Hagan could have rolled up her sleeves and gone to work to make Obama popular but, as a practical matter, Obama’s popularity was beyond Hagan’s control.
 
Hagan could also have tried to distance herself from Obama – Democratic candidates had been doing that for years. But after voting for Obamacare that looked dicey too.
 
Which left one alternative: Hagan could go to work to get the Swing Voters who disliked Obama to dislike Thom Tillis even more.
 
Then she might just win.
 
To be continued …

 

 

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14
If you think about it DENR’s proposal was pretty odd.
 
Last winter, when tons of water from a coal ash pond poured into the Dan River, there was consternation and gnashing of teeth. The U.S. Attorney started investigating. The Governor ordered every coal ash pond cleaned up. The legislature said Amen.
 
Then, with hardly a soul noticing, last August DENR signed off on a plan to clean up coal ash ponds – by dumping the water in the ponds directly into rivers and lakes.
 
Which sounded, more or less, like what had happened on the Dan River.
 
Which was odd.
 
And what happened next was even odder.
 
EPA nixed  DENR’s plan (and the controversy exploded in the newspapers again) then DENR announced it had simply been following orders (or an Executive Order) from the Governor. And did an about face.
 
In other words, DENR threw the Governor under the bus – which is something you don’t see happen in state government every day.

 

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08
The after-debate on who won is more interesting than the debates themselves.
 
You can rely on the partisans to declare victory. The media focuses on substance, issues and fact checks, none of which anybody is interested in. The stories are predictable: Candidates “clashed…traded jabs… repeated talking points…didn’t say anything new…etc.”
 
This year the popular term is “game-changer,” as in “this debate was no game-changer.”
 
Another popular trope is to say the moderator was the only winner, which is a three-fer: You avoid reaching a conclusion, you dismiss both candidates and you suck up to a big media personality.
 
The experts who get quoted have no real-world experience in campaigns and aren’t equipped to keep score. Anyway, it always takes several days for a consensus to set in on who won and who lost.
 
Take the Aiken-Ellmers and Hagan-Tillis debates. As an experiment, I watched the first and followed Twitter for the second.
 
A lot of people watched to see Clay Aiken; nobody cared about seeing Renee Ellmers. They just wanted to see if he was a joke or serious. Old hands I respect were impressed by him, but some people thought he was too caustic. A lot of people commented on his hair.
 
My take: He did well because he showed that he’s smart and serious. And the hair? Well, I haven’t seen a pompadour like that since Jim Hunt ran in 1976. As for Congresswoman Ellmers, she looked like a non-swimmer caught in a rip tide.
 
(Full disclosure: I worked for Aiken in the primary. But I made a commitment to help my friend Tom Bradshaw in his NC Senate race, and I no longer have the energy or bandwith to do more than one race.)
 
From Twitter, I take it that Hagan was crisper, stronger and more effective this time. Thom Tillis should fire his handlers for missing the most basic of all debate-prep questions: Name one issue where you differ with your party.
 
Oh well, there’s always tomorrow’s debate. Maybe we’ll have a meltdown. Or an explosion. Or at least a game-changer.

 

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07
Here’re the three tartest comments I heard about the Ellmers-Aiken debate.
 
“He has the silliest pompadour since Jim Hunt.”
 
“She was catty.”
 
“The person on stage most qualified to serve in Congress was David Crabtree.”

 

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07
Some North Carolina politicians sound today just like their predecessors in the 1950s, railing against the Supreme Court and rallying behind “state’s rights.”
 
Then it was racial discrimination. Today it’s same-sex marriage. Then – as today – the politicians were on the wrong side of history.
 
They say the state’s ban on gay marriages passed with 60 percent of the vote. Yes it did. In a primary two years ago. Want to try it again in a general election?
 
We may. We should see a sharp contrast tonight between Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan. If voters vote on this one issue – and some will – they’ll have a clear choice.
 
Yesterday, Tillis stood united with Senator Berger (for the first time in a while). They promised to resist the court ruling. Meanwhile, Governor McCrory say he would “respect” the decision, even though he didn’t agree with it. (Any bets on whether we will see any “recalculating” – as the GPS lady says – from the Gov?)
 
Last night, it was striking how gingerly both Renee Ellmers and Clay Aiken handled the issue. And Aiken reminded voters that Ellmers opposed the ban in 2012, as did he.
 
While tonight’s debate won’t provide nearly as entertaining overall as Aiken vs. Ellmers, this exchange could prove decisive November 4.

 

 

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06
Thom Tillis is getting the worst of both worlds. The Tea Party doesn’t think he’s one of them, and voters think he’s too close to the Tea Party.
 
The right-leaning Washington Times quoted one Wilkes County Tea Party leader, Joe Greene: “He’s an establishment Republican. That’s why I’m opposed to him. A lot of people feel the way I do and won’t vote for him. He’s got a lot of things about him that’s not grass roots.”
 
Greene, by the way, is part of a group called the “Conservative Patriots Of Wilkes Empowering the Republic” (CPOWER).
 
Tillis has more boardroom about him than grassroots. Unfortunately for him in the Senate race, he presided over a House that has led North Carolina in the Tea Party’s direction the last two years.
 
Which may be why he had Rand Paul here for him last week, though it’s not clear whether Rand is a Tea Party favorite, either.
 
An old political adage comes to mind here: If you’re still securing your base in October, you’re losing.

 

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03
When the media covers a scandal involving a politician, the coverage can be as big an issue as the politician. Take two stories this week – one national and one in-state.
 
The state Senate race in Fayetteville between incumbent Wesley Meredith and challenger Billy Richardson blew up over allegations that Meredith and his ex-wife fraudulently obtained government welfare benefits for their son 18 years ago.
 
The national story goes back 26 years to the sex scandal that sank Gary Hart’s presidential campaign.
 
The common thread is how the media did or didn’t cover the scandals – and what the media should and shouldn’t do.
 
Documents involving Meredith were “shopped around” – as several stories said – for a couple of weeks. But no newspaper or TV station bit. Then Richardson held a press conference, released the documents and called on Meredith to explain. Even then, at least one newspaper was still debating late in the day whether to run the story. It did.
 
The national story is over how in 1988 the Miami Herald staked out Hart’s townhouse in Washington after getting a tip that Hart was having a tryst with a young woman. Matt Bai wrote in The New York Times recently that the story marked the point in time when the mainstream political media went tabloid – and changed political coverage forever, for better or worse.
 
At Politico today, Tom Fiedler, the then-Herald reporter who confronted Hart and wrote the original story, defended it. At issue, Fiedler wrote, is “the existential question of the news media’s role in a presidential campaign. Simply put, what exactly does the public expect the news media to do? I think the voting public expects the news media to provide them with the factual information they need to cast an informed ballot.
 
“That factual information can mean different things for different voters. Some voters might want the media to report a candidate’s positions on the economy, abortion, civil rights, immigration, gun safety and so on. They care little about the candidate’s personal beliefs or behavior. But some voters—indeed, the great majority of voters—are more interested in who the candidate is. This is the much-discussed character issue. It goes to the essence of the candidate; it’s about authenticity, empathy, integrity, fairness and more. Issues change, and with them the candidate’s positions. But character doesn’t change, at least not much. For a journalist to withhold information that more fully reveals the character of a candidate would, in my opinion, be a sin of omission.”

Here, Senator Meredith has relied so far on the time-honored, knee-jerk political response – Richardson is smearing him, the allegations are beneath him and he doesn’t have to explain anything.
 
Wrong.
 
As Carter said in today’s Fayetteville Observer, "You can't shuffle it under the rug.”
 
And reporters and editors in North Carolina – no less than the national media – will have to decide whether to be the rug or the window. 

 

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02
How toxic is the Republican brand in Wake County? Just listen to Republican politicians.
 
Gary Pendleton (House 49) boasts of his “Democrat (sic) friends.” (Note: Democrats hate it when Republicans use “Democrat” as an adjective. It’s “Democratic.”)
 
Tom Murry (House 41) says he’s “independent” and “stood up to his own party.”
 
You have to listen to John Alexander’s (Senate 15) wife, because he stands mute in his TV ad. She says, “I’m a Democrat; he’s not.” (“Don’t even say that word!!”)
 
It appears that familiarity with the legislature has bred contempt.
 
Then there is this from Gerry Cohen (@gercohen on Twitter), the respected retired legislative counsel:
 
“Something is afoot in Wake County. Comparing the 3 month July through September period, 2010 saw 8,585 new voters, by party Democratic 33.9%, Republican 26.2%, Unaffiliated 38.8%, Libertarian 1.1%.
 
“2014 has seen 15,344 new voters (a 78% increase from 2010), by party Democratic 30.8%, Republican 18.0%, Unaffiliated 50.3%, Libertarian 0.9%. The 18% GOP number for 2014 resembles an Orange or Durham County statistic.
 
“In 2010, Blacks made up 19.3% of the new voters during that period, this year it is 25.0%.”

 

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