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North Carolina - Republicans

01
Yes, there’s still five weeks to go. Yes, anything can happen. But the story of this race is likely to be that Thom Tillis lost it when he stayed Speaker in this year’s legislative session.
 
Apparently Tillis stayed on so he could raise money. But he didn’t, and he’s at a big financial disadvantage now. A lot of donors weren’t sure it was legal to give during the session.
 
The session spread more legislative poison on Tillis. The Republican War on Teachers is dragging down every one of their candidates, especially Tillis. And Senator Hagan was smart enough and aggressive enough to wrap it around his neck early.
 
Nobody believes there was a 7 percent pay raise, least of all teachers.
 
Give Hagan and her team credit. They raised a lot of money, and they painted Tillis into a corner he can’t seem to escape. And how they have hundreds of well-trained, well-organized field staffers working across the state.
 
Final lesson: Democrats can play the independent expenditure game just as well as Republicans. Republicans are learning that there are some rich – and angry – Democrats. 

 

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29
A party that denies citizens their constitutional right to vote is a party that deserves to lose. That’s the Republican Party today.
 
The party of Lincoln and TR has become the party of Block the Vote: Voter-suppression laws. Cutting back early voting. No same-day voter registration. Elections boards that twist the laws to suit partisan purposes. And now a deliberate effort to confuse voters about their registration.
 
Republicans claim they’re protecting us from voter fraud. But it looks like Republicans are the ones guilty of voter fraud.
 
That latest outrage comes from the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the Koch-funded ruling wing of the North Carolina Republican Party. The N&O reported: “Hundreds of North Carolinians - and one cat - have received incorrect voter registration information, according to the NC State Board of Elections.”
 
One of the most shameful chapters of North Carolina history was the Democratic Party’s violent suppression of black votes at the turn of the 20th Century. That still lives in infamy today. How long will the Republican Party carry this shame?

 

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26
Maybe Thom Tillis should give Civitas’ pollster math lessons.
 
Thursday morning, Civitas put out this release: “Democrat Tom Bradshaw leads Republican John Alexander by 16 percentage points in the NC Senate District 15 race, according to a new Civitas Flash Poll….” The poll, conducted last Monday and Tuesday, showed Bradshaw ahead 52-36 percent.
 
A few hours later, Civitas put out what it called “a corrected version of today’s flash poll on the candidates in NC Senate District 15.” It showed Bradshaw ahead by 10 points, 46-36.
 
I haven’t checked this morning. Maybe they have Tom behind by now.
 
One suspects the “correction” came after Civitas got an angry call from the Republican Senate campaign committee: Fix this – or else.
 
For the record, I’m working for Tom Bradshaw’s campaign. He’s a friend of 40-plus years and one of the finest people and leaders I’ve ever known.
 
Also for the record, we pay no attention to Civitas’ numbers. It’s probably a setup, anyway, so they can claim in a couple of weeks that Alexander “is closing the gap” or “has drawn dead even.”
 
There’s only one Civitas number I’m sure of: their credibility. It’s zero.

 

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25
Give Governor McCrory credit for proposing something big and bold, a $1 billion transportation bond issue. It sounds like a stimulus program, but that would be the kiss of death in the Republican legislature. He may find himself needing some Democratic allies.
 
He and Secretary Tata will have to answer a lot of questions: how to pay for it, can the state afford it and, of course, why these specific projects?
 
Like every Governor, McCrory promised to take politics out of transportation decisions. Here’s the definition of “politics”: a road somebody else wants. And the definition of “real need”: a road you want.
 
Speaking of needs, why was there no mention of I-95? It’s the most congested, dangerous major road in the state.
 
How can the state seriously pursue a large auto manufacturer without upgrading I-95? The first thing a big plant like that needs, especially if it’s near Rocky Mount, is access up and down the East Coast.
 
Let’s get on with it. Start your engines, warm up the road graders and load up the dump trucks.

 

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19
Carter and I were on News14’s Capital Tonight this week, talking with Tim Boyum about debates today and the Hunt-Helms debates 30 years ago. You can watch our segment here.
 
Tim was struck by how free-flowing and wide-open the 1984 debates were. As we talked with him, we realized that we had happened onto a format that gave voters more insight and information than debates do today.
 
For some reason, debates now are dictated by the clock: “Here’s the question and you have 60 seconds to answer.” Then: “You have 30 seconds to comment on that answer.”
 
Then the media complains because the candidates gave canned 30-second and 60-second responses consisting mostly of talking points and recitals of their TV ads.
 
Well, duh.
 
The format that the Helms and Hunt campaigns negotiated – not entirely to the liking of the broadcasters, by the way – provided for a lot more depth, back-and-forth and give-and-take.
 
Somebody will always object: “But what if one candidate goes on for five minutes?”
 
Believe me, nobody will go on for five minutes on television. And if they did, they would be committing political suicide.
 
So throw away the stopwatches. Let ‘em debate.

 

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17
The Old Wise Leader (OWL) chuckled over coffee about Republicans’ voter-suppression drive: “They should beware the Law of Unintended Consequences.”
 
I enjoy talking with OWL. He reads a lot, and he thinks.
 
Two things caught his eye: The story about Senator Berger’s voter-confusion ad and a mailing that a friend got. The mailer read: “Important Voter Registration Information Inside.” Inside is a “North Carolina Voter Registration Application.” The headline says, “Register to vote today!” It tells you to fill out the form and mail it in the pre-addressed envelope to the State Board of Elections. (“Postage will be paid by addressee.”)
 
Here’s the odd part. It came from an outfit called the “Americans for Prosperity Foundation.” And it went to a voter who not only is already registered, but also is a regular, long-time voter. A Democrat.
 
“I smell a rat,” OWL said. “Looks to me like they’re messing with Democratic voters’ minds.” Then he chuckled, “But the rats may be walking into a trap.”
 
How so? “Well, folks don’t like rats messing with their right to vote. And they might just decide to teach the rats a lesson – on Election Day.”

 

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16
First Governor McCrory compared Senator Phil Berger to Tony Rand, Marc Basnight and Harry Reid. Then, McCrory said he wouldn’t call the legislature back into session because “after a lengthy session they need a break, and frankly I need a break from them” – a sentiment heartily endorsed by many North Carolinians.
 
This week Senator Berger had some choice words back for the Governor. Commenting on McCrory’s contention that the new coal-ash law is unconstitutional because most members are appointed by the legislature, Berger said in a statement that, “The governor’s primary concern appears to be a desire to control the coal ash commission and avoid an independent barrier between his administration and former employer” (Duke Energy).
 
The TAPster who passed along Berger’s quote found it remarkable, given that the United States Attorney is investigating the relationship between an agency under the Governor and Duke.
 
So much for Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.”

 

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15
More telling than Kay Hagan’s overall lead in the polls may be her overwhelming lead with women.
 
According to a Rasmussen Poll last week, Hagan leads Thom Tillis by six points, 45-39. But then it gets confusing. The poll said Hagan leads among women by 21 points, while Tillis leads among men by nine points.
 
Say again? If the vote splits 50-50 between men and women, and Hagan leads with women by 21 and trails by men by nine, isn’t she then ahead by 12?
 
Unless Rasmussen assumes that a whole lot more men will vote than women.
 
If that assumption is wrong, and if women turn out heavily, Tillis is – as the fellow Down East once said – “Toast. T-O-S-T, toast.”

 

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09
When it comes to teacher pay, Republicans must feel like they’re pushing a truck up a hill with a rope.
 
Thom Tillis claims the legislature passed a 7 percent pay raise. Then Governor McCrory sends teachers a letter telling them it’s a 5.5 percent average pay raise. Then teachers like Michelle Pettey in Wake County get the paycheck and see a raise of only 1.39 percent. (A tip of the TAP hat to Mark Binker at WRAL for this story.)
 
Republicans have been scrambling this year to get out of the hole they dug with teachers since 2010. They’ve pushed the 7 percent claim hard. But if teachers like Pettey look at their paychecks and decide they’re being conned, the hole is going to get a lot deeper.
 
Will Tillis then tell teachers, like he told Senator Hagan, that they just don’t understand simple math?

 

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08
A TAPster unimpressed by the Hagan-Tillis debate says, “If you want to see a real debate, watch Jim Hunt debate Jesse Helms in 1984. That was like Ali and Frazier.”
 
Ah, take me back to those thrilling days 30 years ago. Here’s a link so you can watch two heavyweight champs. (This is the first debate, which I liked best because Hunt did best in it.)
 
Hunt caught Helms flat-footed. Carter said later the Helms campaign underestimated Hunt. They thought he would be a pushover. And Helms didn’t want to look mean. Hunt started punching Helms in the nose in the first minute and never let up.
 
In three later debates, Helms gave as good as he got. Watching clips now, I’m reminded how smart and tough they both were – and how much they truly disliked each other. I’m reminded of the tension in the rooms where just the TV crew and a few staff members were allowed. I remember thinking: I’m glad I’m not the one who has to stand up there.
 
Carter and I first met negotiating the rules of the debates. We were the junior partners in the room; Tom Ellis represented Helms and Phil Carlton, Hunt. We met under the auspices of the N.C. Broadcasters Association.
 
Our meetings started in a climate of mutual hostility and suspicion. But after a couple of sessions, an odd dynamic emerged. The two campaigns realized that we were more in tune with each other than with the broadcasters on the format we wanted. So we asked the broadcasters’ representatives to step out of the room. We quickly settled on a format that let the two men go at each other freely without a lot of rules, time limits and moderator-posturing. We told the broadcasters: take it or leave it. They weren’t happy, but they took it.
 
Hunt prepared like a boxer in training. He went through sparring sessions with Harrison Hickman, a native North Carolinian with an uncanny ability to ape Helms’ voice and style. Hunt had some rough spots during the prep, but he worked hard and did his homework, as always. He was ready when the debates began July 29, 1984.
 
After four debates, the candidates, their campaigns and the voters were worn out. But nobody could say we didn’t give them their money’s worth.

 

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