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20
Thom Tillis is walking the same tightrope that Jim Hunt walked in his U.S. Senate race 30 years ago. But Tillis’ balance is even more precarious.
 
Tillis today, like Hunt then, has to appeal to the broad November electorate and also pacify an extreme faction in his own party.
 
Hunt’s problems came from the then-ascendant left wing of the Democratic Party, symbolized by Walter Mondale, Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson. For Tillis, it’s the Tea Party.
 
Unlike Tillis, Hunt didn’t have to run a primary gauntlet. Tillis wants to avoid it, so he’s avoiding debates and joint appearances with his opponents. He saw what happened to Mitt Romney when Romney tried to appease the Fox News crowd in 2012.
 
Tillis is also resorting to the last resort of political scoundrels: the argument that he is more “electable.” That’s code for “not a nut.” His campaign is busily warning other Republicans, especially legislators, that they will be endangered species in November if the GOP nominates one of Tillis’ opponents.
 
Tillis hopes to avoid proving the old adage that the only things in the middle of the road are yellow stripes and dead possums.

 

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17
The newspaper reporter asked if North Carolina’s Senate Primary was going to be the next litmus test of the Tea Party’s political muscle – and as fast as he could Greg Brannon’s campaign spokesman said ‘Yes’ then added the Primary was just like Senator Rand Paul’s election in Kentucky in 2010 and Senator Ted Cruz’s election in Texas in 2012.
 
“In those races, he said, you had a candidate that was handpicked and heavily supported by the DC establishment up against a Tea Party candidate supported by the grassroots. In both instances the grassroots candidate won big.”
 
Now, of course, you can’t fault Greg Brannon’s spokesman for wanting to get a step ahead of Thom Tillis – but what landed in the newspaper was only part of the story.
 
It’s true Rand Paul and Ted Cruz both won.
 
But on the way to winning they also raised a lot of money. Rand Paul with the help of his father’s supporters across the country. And Ted Cruz with the help of Senator Jim DeMint, who all but adopted him.
 
Here in North Carolina, so far, Greg Brannon and Mark Harris, who’re challenging Thom Tillis, have both been noticeably short of cash.
 
And that’s the big fact in the Senate race: No one, or at best only a handful of voters,  knows Greg Brannon. They don’t know he’s the next Ted Cruz. And he hasn’t had the money to change that. So the real fight in the Republican Primary isn’t between the Establishment and the Tea Party – it’s between Greg Bannon and his empty cash box.

 

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17
Pat McCrory looked this week like a man urgently pushing the reset button. Like a politician who desperately wants to change course before he goes off a cliff.
 
So first he talked about teacher pay. Then he praised Jim Hunt. Then he was at the airport greeting President Obama, then in the audience listening to the President’s speech. While other Republicans bashed Obama, McCrory talked about a partnership with the White House,
 
But three people stand in the way of a reset: Aldona Wos, Phil Berger and Pat McCrory.
 
As long as Wos and DHHS stay in the headlines, McCrory will be stuck with the appearance of cronyism and ineptitude. As long as Berger wages ideological warfare on teachers, McCrory will be dragged down by the legislature’s abysmal poll ratings. As long as McCrory sticks with both of them, he won’t get back to what got him elected: an image as a moderate, bipartisan, can-do Mayor.
 
Bipartisan words and photo-ops won’t be enough. McCrory needs a bold stroke.  Two of them.

 

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16
A couple of weeks ago the News & Observer  published a story that got folks stirred up over how the head of the Raleigh Housing Authority was making $280,000 a year and wining and dining his board of directors for $3,000 at a Christmas banquet at Raleigh’s elegant Second Empire Restaurant – all paid for by taxpayers.
 
The story caused a ripple which passed but then just before Christmas the News & Observer published a second story reporting the board had given the director nearly eleven weeks of paid vacation last year and the year before and the year before that.
 
The director, defending himself, said that wasn’t quite fair because part of his vacation was ‘comp time’ (which means if he worked 8 hours in a day instead of 7.5 then 30 minutes got added to his vacation time).
 
The Board of the Housing Authority – who’re all political appointees – stood foursquare behind the director. In fact, it just voted to give him an additional six days of vacation this year.
 
Meantime, up in Washington, the government’s borrowing a day to avoid cutting spending.

 

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15
Back before Christmas when Congress struck its ‘big budget deal’ the newspapers were running stories left and right telling everyone how Round 2 of the Sequester was going to be aw-ful and terr-ible and croo-el.
 
In one story a lady in Fayetteville told how the army was going to be so decimated by the next round of Sequester cuts that landscaping at Fort Bragg would grind to a halt. Another lady lamented how over in Durham Head Start was serving forty-two fewer children now than a year ago and Lord knows where it would all end.
 
In story after story pundits predicted coming tribulations that sounded eerily like the tribulations the same pundits predicted last spring: The homeless would go without shelter. The army would be crippled. The White House would never reopen for tours.
 
In fact, back last spring, during the first Sequester there was so much wailing and gnashing of teeth that just about everyone got into a dither but, then, the cuts came and went and the sky didn’t fall and life went on pretty much as usual. So this time when the same pundits  begin roaring Armageddon was at hand most folks just sort of shook their heads, thought, I’ve heard all that before, and went on about their business.
 
One group of folks who did get the dithers this time – in a big way – were Republican Congressmen. House Speaker John Boehner got such a bad case of the willies he got into a name calling contest with the Tea Party groups who liked the cuts, calling them varmints and villains then (to the Republicans’ surprise and Obama’s delight) whipping a bill through Congress that killed the cuts stone-cold dead.
 
Which sounded like the end of laments.
 
But wasn’t.
 
Because President Obama waited a few days then announced he wanted the Speaker and the Republicans in Congress to spend another $25 billion to extend unemployment benefits for another year.
 
And what did Speaker Boehner say?
 
He said he reckoned that, first, they ought to cut spending.

 

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15
Jim Hunt should respond swiftly and strongly to the base calumny that Pat McCrory has cast upon his reputation.
 
Speaking this week at the Hunt Education Institute’s Holshouser Legislators Retreat, McCrory – according to the N&O – “praised former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt as a valued adviser.”
 
McCrory was quoted as saying: “Jim Hunt is a hero of mine, he’s a mentor of mine….he’s been a great adviser to me.”
 
Governor Hunt, this slander must not stand. You don’t want people thinking McCrory has been taking your advice.
 
Or maybe McCrory will take your advice now. Maybe he’ll commit to raising teacher pay in to the national average. He can sign a petition to himself and the legislature right here.

 

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15
Fearless Forecast: Obamacare won’t be a decisive issue in 2014, but Chris Christie’s bridge-gate will be in 2016.
 
That sounds backwards. After all, polls right here at home show that Obamacare is dragging down Senator Hagan. And the buzz is that Christie’s poll ratings are holding up and Republicans are rallying around him.
 
But both will change, and here’s why: Nobody understands Obamacare; it’s too complicated. By November, nobody will understand what Obamacare did or didn’t do. They won’t have the patience to read complicated analyses of the complex, confusing health-care system.
 
The only thing people understand about Obamacare is that the website didn’t work. That is something we get.
 
And everybody gets bullying and deliberately causing traffic jams. Plus, the media will never get tired of this story, especially since it reinforces an existing impression of Christie.

As for Christie’s “bounce,” remember that it took two years for Watergate to bring down Nixon. Republicans rallied around him at first. Then, like now, they were uniting against the “liberal media” more than for Nixon/Christie.

In politics, what's up today is likely to be down tomorrow. And vice versa.

 

 

 

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14
Democrats fondly hope that, when he comes to NCSU tomorrow, President Obama finally gets his economic message right.
 
He has struggled at that all five years in the White House. For all the good he has done, he has never done well at explaining what he’s doing.
 
In retrospect, maybe he should have spent his first year just driving home what a disaster George Bush left behind – and how difficult the road back would be. Instead, the Spock-like President went straight to what he was doing about the problem. And he got saddled from the get-go with the bailout and stimulus born by Bush & Co.
 
Ever since, he has struggled to balance hope with gloom-and-doom. He has tried different lines and tacks. (One reporter reminded me of his “Sputnik moment” theme; that never achieved liftoff.)
 
The President never had a simple phrase like New Deal or even Two Americas. He never had Bill Clinton’s gift for explaining stuff and feeling your pain.
 
The one time he and his team got the message right was in 2012 against Mitt Romney, and that was a negative message: Romney is a cruel bazillionaire who likes to fire people like you.
 
Now Obama gets a reset, in Raleigh and in his State of the Union. He better get it right this time. Otherwise, his message will be real simple in his last two years: this Republican Congress is screwing you.

 

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13
John Ledford, from up in the mountains, was a leader in local Democratic politics for years, then ran for sheriff of Madison County and won. Then, after a few years as sheriff, he got Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue to appoint him head of the Division of Alcohol and Law Enforcement, a job where he earned $110,000 a year.
 
Then Republican Pat McCrory was elected Governor and, since Ledford was a political appointee, it was clear to just about everyone else his days as head of A.L.E. were numbered.
 
So John Ledford pulled a hat trick – and he demoted himself into a job as a career state employee. Where he couldn’t be fired.
 
Of course, it wasn’t quite as simple as it sounds.
 
First, the job Ledford wanted to demote himself into was in Wilmington - while he lived on the other side of the state in Asheville. And the job only paid $39,000.
 
But Ledford found a simple solution: Before he resigned as head of A.L.E. he recommended to the higher-ups in the Perdue Administration (who were also political appointees) that they move the job from Wilmington to Asheville and raise the salary to $65,800 – which his fellow Democrats happily did.
 
Of course, none of that set too well with the Republicans after they took office.
 
They more or less decided the whole thing was a scam. And fired Ledford. Who then sued and said with a straight face he was a career state employee who couldn’t be fired.
 
Then Ledford hired a lawyer, headed to court, and, in an odd twist of fate, landed in front of a judge who, by sheer coincidence, had been former Democratic Governor Bob Scott’s legal advisor.
 
The judge declared Ledford had been “a marked man, politically” after the election of a Republican Governor, added he’d been fired because he was a Democrat, and ordered the state to reinstate him, pay him $44,000 in back pay, and pay his lawyer another $50,000.
 
And that’s Democracy in Action: A Democratic nabob waves a magic wand and declares himself a career employee; the Republicans say that’s not magic it’s voodoo; and a judge (who worked for a Democratic Governor forty years ago) rules taxpayers have to fork over $94,000 so justice can be done.

 

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13
The Watauga Wizard, Jerry Wayne Williamson, nails it: “McCrory Blocks Traffic on All Bridges Going into CD12.” Jerry adds in his Watauga Watch blog:
 
“(Congressman Mel Watt’s) resignation should have triggered a special election to fill his unexpired term in the U.S. House. But, no, Gov. McCrory decided that the seat could be filled on November 4, 2014, along with every other seat in Congress. In other words, citizens of the 12th Congressional District will have no representation in Congress for the next 300 days. Well, after all, those people are mainly black and didn't vote for McCrory. Who the hell cares whether they have a congressman for 2014?”
 
In light of Chris Christie’s Bridgegate, you wonder what a public records request might unearth here.  Maybe an email along the lines of: “Time for some problems in Mel Watt’s district.”
 
Another 12th District resident asked: “Would McCrory have done the same if it was a safe GOP seat?” You know the answer.
 
For McCrory, this was an opportunity to do the right thing for the people he was elected to serve. Instead, he did the politics-as-usual thing.

 

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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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