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14

Karen Handel stood in front of the cameras looking grumpy and, beside her, Jon Ossoff looked pleasant but far too young to be on that stage.

He said, You’ve got Super PACs. You’re a politician.

She said, You’ve got Super PACs too. You’re Nancy Pelosi’s pawn.

He said, I’m Independent.

She said, How can you be Independent – you’re supported by Nancy Pelosi?

He said, My opponent opposed breast cancer funding.

She said, I helped make October Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

He said, She’s Trump’s rubber stamp.

She turned to Ossoff, I’d like to ask you one question. Who are you going to vote for on election day? (Ossoff doesn’t live in Georgia’s 6th District so he can’t vote on election day.)

Ossoff said, At least I was born in Georgia. You were born in Washington, DC.

He added, You’re a career politician.

And she said, You’re a career junior staffer.

It was like watching two actors reading a script written by a thirteen-year-old.

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13

Was Michael Flynn Svengali? Donald Trump’s back door conduit to the Russians? To get them to help him defeat Hillary?

And if Flynn was Svengali does he now know – as David Axelrod has hinted – Trump’s worst secret? Is he whispering to Trump, Protect me or I’ll tell all? Does that explain Trump’s stubborn loyalty to Flynn?

 Or is Michael Flynn the opposite of a Svengali – a bumbling general who schemed to get the job he’d dreamed of in Trump’s White House then blew his own foot off?

Will Flynn (the Svengali) make a deal with the prosecutors? And scuttle Trump? Or does Flynn (the bumbler) know nothing because there’s nothing to know?

CNN howls Flynn’s Svengali. Fox howls Trump’s virtue personified. While the rest of us wait, watching as the mill wheels grind – because when the grinding stops we’ll know: Is Mike Flynn Svengali?

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13

Three overseas political stories either could, should or shouldn’t have an impact on American politics.

Russia

Trump & Co. are so set on smearing Comey, Democrats are so set on impeaching Trump and Republicans are so set on saving their skins that the Big Story from Comey’s hearing whizzed right past us.

The Russians did interfere with our election. They hacked state elections machinery. They hacked 1,000 American organizations. They spread false news. They hurt Clinton and helped Trump.

But nobody’s talking about a foreign power violating our sovereignty and undermining our democracy – and what we do about it.

We should be.

The UK

Progressive Democrats in the US love to see Tories lose and Labour gain in the UK. They love to see a Bernie Sanders-type campaign energize young voters. They love the slogan, “For the Many, Not the Few.” They love the attacks on austerity. They love the redistributionist rhetoric.

But hold on. Labour still didn’t win. And Democrats here can’t win just by promising to divide the pie more fairly. They have to talk about baking a bigger pie.

The path back for Democrats is an economic growth message. That’s why Governor Jim Hunt always talked about jobs – and education as the path to good jobs.

France

At first glance, Emmanuel Macron looked like a weakling and a little boy. Only 39 years old. Never run for office before. Married to a woman 24 years older (the same age gap between Trump and Melania).

But Macron has turned out to be tough and steely. He took down Trump in a handshake contest. He took down Putin at a joint press conference.

He organized a new political party – one that ran right down the middle, neither left nor right, but borrowing from both. He recruited new candidates, including a lot of political newcomers and outsiders, to run for Parliament. And his En Marche! (Forward!) party won the first round of Parliamentary elections.

Forward, indeed.

 

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07

Two good political reads bust up two big political “truths”: (1) white working class voters elected Trump, and (2) Trump’s negatives will be enough to elect Democrats.

Trump’s non(voters)

Nicholas Carnes, an assistant professor of public policy at Duke University’s Sanford School, co-authored “It’s time to bust the myth: Most Trump voters were not working class” in the Washington Post.

He and Noam Lupu of Vanderbilt University, wrote:

“Media coverage of the 2016 election often emphasized Donald Trump’s appeal to the working class…. The New York Times characterized (Trump’s victory) as ‘a decisive demonstration of power by a largely overlooked coalition of mostly blue-collar white and working-class voters.’

“There’s just one problem: this account is wrong. Trump voters were not mostly working-class people.

“During the primaries, Trump supporters were mostly affluent people….Trump voters weren’t majority working class in the general election, either.”

Using data from the American National Election Study, Carnes and Lupu wrote:

“Among people who said they voted for Trump in the general election, 35 percent had household incomes under $50,000 per year….Trump’s voters weren’t overwhelmingly poor. In the general election, like the primary, about two thirds of Trump supporters came from the better-off half of the economy.”

Democrats’ non-message

This myth-buster comes from Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone (“The Democrats Need a New Message”):

“How low do you have to sink to lose an election in this country? Republicans have been trying to answer that question for years. But they’ve been unable to find out, because Democrats somehow keep failing to beat them.

“There is now a sizable list of election results involving Republican candidates who survived seemingly unsurvivable scandals to win higher office.

“The lesson in almost all of these instances seems to be that enormous numbers of voters would rather elect an openly corrupt or mentally deranged Republican than vote for a Democrat. But nobody in the Democratic Party seems terribly worried about this….”

Taibbi says Democrats blame their losses on outside factors (Russia, Comey, racism, media bias, dark money, gerrymandering) and hopelessly dumb, deluded, evil and irredeemable voters (“basket of deplorables”).

He argues that Democrats have forgotten the lesson that Presidents Clinton (in 1992 and 1996) and Obama (2008 and 2012) taught them: You work for every vote, even if the odds are against you. You should at least show up.

“The Democrats have forgotten this….Democrats in general have lost the ability (and the inclination) to reach out to the entire population.

“They’re continuing, if not worsening, last year’s mistake of running almost exclusively on Trump/Republican negatives….

“But ‘Republicans are bad’ isn’t a message or a plan, which is why the Democrats have managed the near impossible: losing ground overall during the singular catastrophe of the Trump presidency.

“The party doesn’t see that the largest group of potential swing voters out there doesn’t need to be talked out of voting Republican. It needs to be talked out of not voting at all….

“People need a reason to be excited by politics, and not just disgusted with the other side. Until the Democrats figure that out, these improbable losses will keep piling up.”

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07

It’s easy to agree with Donald Trump on trade and spending cuts but then his lips move and the same man who said, I get bigger crowds than Beyoncé, and, Trump University gets an ‘A’ rating from the Better Business Bureau, says, The FBI investigation is a witch hunt.

Without honesty trust withers and without trust a President’s strength withers.

Trump proposes a bill, boasts, growls, tweets, and the House splits into factions – and nothing happens. If a bill limps out of the House, forty-one votes can kill it in the Senate and, again, nothing happens.

Unhappy about the Russia investigation Trump fumed, growled and fired Jim Comey but strength diminished, powers limited, he landed in another mess.

The clamor is unending: Trump tweets, CNN goes berserk, the New York Times erupts and it’s a reality show, obnoxious and entertaining, but it’s not an earthquake. At the end of the day Trump’s still stuck. Nothing earthshaking happened.

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06

It’s an incurable vice: Railroad tycoons did it in the Gilded Age and over a century later Wall Street bankers did it, reaching into the government treasury to bail out their bad loans (with other people’s money) and the ‘grabbers’ don’t always live on Wall Street.

Take fringe benefits. For government employees. Right now a state employee can retire and start receiving part of his pension after working 20 years. Or he can wait 10 more years and draw his full pension. And, either way, the state will pay for his health insurance as long as he lives. He can retire at 50, take a job with a private corporation and the state will go right on paying his pension and paying for his health insurance.

How much does it cost? Right now, the State Pension Fund and State Health Care Fund are $60 billion in debt – a problem politicians, being politicians, have turned a blind eye to for years.

Then, at last, State Senator Andy Wells and State Treasurer Dale Folwell tried to fix the problem. How did that work out? Getting politicians to say no to people reaching into the Treasury is a tall order. Wells and Folwell tried but, so far, the grab’s still on.

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05

Sometimes it takes a while but the chickens always come home to roost and, more often than not, they come home at the worst possible time.

Six years ago, when Republican legislators drew the new state House and Senate districts, they had a simple theory: They believed the Voting Rights Act required them to create as many Minority-Majority districts as possible. That was a legal theory but it also had a practical side: Packing districts with African American voters meant packing districts with Democratic voters and that meant the rest of the districts would be more Republican. Which worked out fine: Republicans won veto proof majorities in the House and Senate in three straight elections.

Fighting back, Democrats filed a plethora of lawsuits but the mills of justice grind slowly – then at last, a week ago, the chickens came home to roost: The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the Democrats. And sent orders down to the N.C. Supreme Court to straighten out the mess. Which – for Republicans – couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Because, last fall, Democrats won a majority on the state Supreme Court, so barring a minor miracle the state House and Senate districts are about to be redrawn.

Which leaves one last question: When will the state Supreme Court order the new elections to be held? Will it be in the fall of 2018? Or will there be a Special Election?

Since Roy Cooper was elected Republicans have overridden every single one of his vetoes but a Special Election would give Cooper a shot at electing the Democrats he needs this year and if that happens make no mistake: There will be a first-class no-holds-barred political brawl.

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03

As my old friend J.P. used to say, “People even got tired of The Andy Griffith Show eventually.”

So it is with the Trump Presidency.

Understandably, Democrats want him out of the White House. Now! Today! His recklessness and willful ignorance are frightening.

But the more Democrats rail and rant and rave, the more Trump’s base – and some Independents – rally around him.

Why? Because some of them will support him even if he shoots somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue. And those who hate him hate Democratic politicians even more.

It’s time to take a deep breath. And let this all play out.

Trump’s biggest enemy is his mouth, his Twitter and his policies. Like denying that climate change is real and throwing millions of people off health insurance.

Give him room. Give him rope. He is busy hanging himself. America will tired of him. America is tiring of him.

In 2018 or 2020 there will come the opportunity to hit him and the Republicans where it hurts and where it counts: in an election. Two chances for Americans to do what they love to do: throw the bums out.

For now, listen to old J.P. And heed this advice from John Steinbeck in East of Eden:

“In human affairs of danger and delicacy successful conclusion is sharply limited by hurry. So often men trip by being in a rush. If one were properly to perform a difficult and subtle act, he should first inspect the end to be achieved and then, once he had accepted the end as desirable, he should forget it completely and concentrate solely on the means. By this method he would not be moved to false action by anxiety or hurry or fear. Very few people learn this.”

 

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02

The President rapped the Germans, Angela Merkel rapped back, and the President unsheathed a new type of diplomacy – he tweeted.

NATO’s the key to the West’s alliance against Russia, and Germany – after the United States – is the biggest nation in NATO and the President’s having a twitter spat with the Germans.

It’s a novel kind of diplomacy.

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02

Nate Cohn of The New York Times Upshot column has an eye-opening analysis of why so many state-level polls were wrong about Trump and Clinton last year. More on that later.

But bad polls aren’t to blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss. Because her campaign didn’t do polls.

That’s the most shattering revelation in a new book, “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.”

Her campaign, led by manager Robbie Mook, believed in data and analytics. They knew their base voters. Tracked them relentlessly. Modeled their predicted performance obsessively.

And didn’t worry about persuading undecided voters. Or polling them to find out what they cared about, what they yearned for in a President and what they saw – or didn’t see – in Hillary.

That’s why her campaign didn’t see white working class voters turning to Bernie Sanders in the primaries. And didn’t go after them in the general election campaign.

That’s why Hillary, to her great frustration, couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t connecting. And why Bill Clinton, to his great frustration, couldn’t persuade Mook to go after the voters Bubba used to get.

Polls and focus groups get a bad rap. Mainly from people who have never used them and learned from them.

A good poll is the only objective way to tune out all the noise, advice, anecdotes and theorizing from well-meaning people who don’t know what they’re talking about – and find out what real voters really think.

Yes, as Cohn recounts, a lot of state-level polls were wrong in 2016. (Most national polls predicted Clinton would narrowly win the popular vote, which she did.) There are a lot of theories why polls misfired: Maybe undecided voters broke heavily for Trump at the end. Maybe Trump voters were less likely to admit they were Trump voters. Maybe the polls’ voter screens tilted toward Clinton. Maybe – and most intriguingly – polls didn’t weight properly for education levels, which turned out to be a good predictor of voting behavior.

All of those errors can be fixed. A good pollster will produce a good poll.

Yes, data and analytics have their place. Polls have their place. And experienced political guts like Bill Clinton’s have their place.

It takes a village.

 

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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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