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21

Twenty-four years ago newly elected President Bill Clinton had a ‘Disapproval’ rating of 51%, and Democrats lost the next election in a landslide. In 1994 Republican gained 54 seats in Congress.

President Trump has a ‘Disapproval’ rating of 58% – 7 points higher than Clinton’s – but, like most people, Republican politicians shrug, That won’t happen to me.

It’s human nature, like Phillip Franklin saying, There is no danger the Titanic will sink.

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20

Republicans won four straight elections campaigning against Obamacare – it was that unpopular.

But, now, they’ve laid out their own healthcare plan and guess what: Voters favor Obamacare over the Republican Plan by 2 to 1.

Who’d have thought it was possible?

Can no one in Congress…fix anything?

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20

Because he’s a Democrat who won in a state that Trump won and Republicans rule, Roy Cooper is getting national attention. Last month it was The New York Times. This week it’s Politico (“Can Roy Cooper Show Democrats How to Win Again?”), which proclaims:

“North Carolina’s governor is unveiling an audacious plan to oust his Republican rivals. Democrats hope to make it a national model.”

Edward-Isaac Dovere wrote:

“Already, Cooper has quietly banked $1 million for his new group, Break the Majority, and plans to raise several million more, along with recruiting candidates and then campaigning for them in state Senate and General Assembly races. The money, being put into a new state Democratic Party account, will also cover salaries for what will effectively be a new campaign committee, with a dedicated communications director, research director, several junior staffers and cash for everything from field organizers to ads.

“Given the cutthroat nature of politics in North Carolina, Cooper’s power play is especially audacious: Though there have been previous independent expenditures and coordinated campaigns in the state and beyond, an effort with this kind of focus and funding is unprecedented.”

Less noticed, no doubt, is this analysis of the Cooper-Pat McCrory race (“Caught Between Coalitions: An Eisenhower Republican in the Tar Heel State”) by Miles Coleman at Decision Desk HQ, who writes:

“During the previous three Gubernatorial campaigns, one constant has been former Gov. Pat McCrory. McCrory’s stylistic transformation was just as interesting as the shifting internal politics of his state. Running initially as an ‘Eisenhower Republican’ with an independent streak, by the end of his tenure, he was seen as a partisan who became an unlikely champion of social conservatives.

“Out of office after a single term, McCrory was essentially caught between two coalitions. In his 2008 campaign, he came out on the losing side to a Democrat who was, from an electoral perspective, the last of her kind; she was able to rally eastern North Carolinians back to the party of Jackson in a way that hasn’t since been replicated. Running as an incumbent in 2016, McCrory was undone by a challenger who won, in large part, due to his strength with the state’s more ascendant suburban bloc.”

A tip of the TAP hat to pollster Harrison Hickman for passing this story along. He noted, “Nothing new but a lot of good maps,” including one that led Coleman to say this about North Carolina Democrats:

“At a more general level, the party needs to find ways to connect with rural voters. This last map is a good example of that. This is Cooper’s 2016 map compared to Obama’s in 2008; both were narrow Democratic wins – given the nationalization of local races, this may be the most relevant comparison.

“Though both won by similarly narrow margins, Cooper performed better than Obama in just 19 counties; most of which are urban and have a high concentration of voters with college degrees. If Democrats don’t tailor their message to go beyond these types of constituencies, they leave themselves little room for error in statewide races, and they will be hard pressed to make substantial gains in the legislature.”

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19

Because this is journalism today. And The News & Observer’s owners are desperately searching for a way to survive.

So the rumor is that a lot of big names are leaving the N&O. And a lot of big changes are coming.

The biggest change: Reporters will be evaluated by their clicks. By how many online clicks their stories get.

Not news. Not scoops. Not great reporting or writing. Not solid, sustained coverage of dull things like government.

Clicks! Which probably involves sex or scandal or something equally sensational.

This is why those old-style readers who sat down to breakfast with their old-style print N&O Tuesday found this story on Page One: “This is why your Facebook feed is full of clues about finding painted rocks.”

Clicks!

But don’t blame the folks at the N&O. Or even their bottom line-obsessed owners.

They’re giving us what we (apparently) want.

Now, that’s frightening.

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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19

Only a rare politician can resist it and no politician can cure it;—I first laid eyes on it twenty-six years ago when Jack Hawke asked me to drive over to Republican Headquarters for a meeting with a dozen legislators; an hour later standing around a conference room table covered with maps a legislator – enthusiastically waving his arms – explained he’d found a way to draw not two but three Black Congressional Districts.

Heads nodded. Smiles spread across faces. Not because they wanted to elect three Black Congressmen but because packing Black voters into three districts meant electing Republicans in 6 or 8 other districts.

I pointed to the maps.

“You’re drawing Congressional Districts based on racial quotas. I thought we Republicans were against quotas?”

The answer to my question was no. Emphatically. We Republicans were not against racial quotas when it came to drawing Congressional Districts – so I said: “Alright. But aren’t you doing just what you’ve condemned Democrats for doing for years?”

A flicker of unease shot around the table that quickly passed.

That Republican redistricting plan – 26 years ago – never saw the light of day: The Democrats killed it, passed their own equally one sided (in the opposite direction) plan, and twenty years crawled by before Republicans – in 2011 – finally got to draw the Districts they’d been dreaming of: And it worked. Next election the Republican Congressmen were elected and Republicans elected Super Majorities in the State House and Senate.

And the key to the whole plan was drawing Black Districts.

Which, back then, judges and politicians (in both parties) agree was a good thing to do. President Obama’s Justice Department even gave the Republicans’ redistricting plan its seal of approval.

But human nature walks a crooked road and, five years later, the same Federal Courts who’d ruled Black Districts were good rule the Republican Black Districts were bad (because they were too Black) – which meant the Republican mapmakers had to go back to the drawing board.

As it turned out, redrawing Black Districts wasn’t a difficult problem to solve at all: Republican mapmakers came up with a new theory called ‘Partisan Redistricting;’ this time they packed Democrats (instead of Blacks) into a few districts and that worked too: The outcome was the same. There wasn’t a dimes worth of difference between Racial Redistricting and Partisan Redistricting.

So now, up in Washington, the Supreme Court is about to hear a case about ‘Partisan Redistricting.’ That case is from Wisconsin but here’s an example of how ‘Partisan Redistricting’ works in North Carolina: In 2012 Republican candidates for Congress got 49% of the votes but 70% of the Congressmen elected were Republicans. So the Supreme Court Justices are going to try to figure out whether that’s legal or not and, if it’s not, where to draw a plum-line to stop it.

Is there a cure?

That’s like asking if there’s a cure for original sin. There is. But finding the strength to resist temptation will take more than judges or laws.

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18

I take a summer blogging break, and what happened?

Everything. And nothing.

Our reality-TV President got in a TV/Twitter fight. He insulted Mika’s looks. He called Morning Joe “psycho.” And he fantasy-slammed CNN.

Then he went to Europe, dropped out of the Paris climate agreement and lost us more friends around the world.

Except Putin. He loves Trump. Isn’t it great when a plan comes together, Vladimir?

As if that wasn’t enough, the world now faces a rogue nation armed with nuclear weapons and led by an unstable, unpredictable egomaniac.

And then there’s North Korea!

In Washington, Republicans still can’t figure out how to repeal Obamacare. Some Republicans don’t like taking health insurance away from 20 million Americans. Other Republicans don’t think 20 million is near enough.

In Raleigh, Republicans continued their assault on all things Democratic. They took away more of the Governor’s powers, took away most of AG Josh Stein’s lawyers and decided to impeach Elaine Marshall.
Hmmm. Wonder who her office might have been investigating?

In all, Trump and Republicans seem determined to scare off as many voters as possible. It looks like a great opportunity for Democrats.

But don’t underestimate our ability to blow it.

Posted in: General
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18

They’re mad. They’re livid. They’re out for blood.

One angry Republican said, “We got them the House, we got them the Senate and even the White House and they still can’t get it done. If we leave Ryan and McConnell in charge, nothing’s going to change.”

That was the gist of the newspaper story but can a reporter – based on interviews with a handful of people – put her finger on a political tsunami sweeping across the Republican hinterlands?

Every month or so a candidate will walk into my office, sit down, look at me across the conference table, and say, What should I do?

And I usually give him ­or her the same answer: First, raise money. Second, take a poll.

He usually doesn’t like either idea and, after a bit of hemming and hawing, he’ll say, Why do I need a poll? I know what to do.

Which leaves me in the awkward position of having to explain to someone – who means well – he doesn’t know quite as much as he thinks.

I’ll say: I’m a sixty-five-year-old white male Republican. And almost all my friends are white-haired men just like me. That’s the world I live in. Then I’ll explain that:

1) 70% of the voters are white.

2) And that half of those voters are males – so my ‘group’ just shrunk to 35%.

3) That I’m also a Republican – so 35% just shrunk to 10%.

4) And that I live in a suburb – so 10% just shrunk to 5%.

And that’s the world I live in. And what I see of the other 95% of the world, day in and day out, is little to nothing at all.

What I’m trying to explain to the candidate is simple: He lives in a small world. What he sees and hears and feels is subjective. And one tool that allows him to reach beyond the small world he walks, lives, and breathes in is a poll.

Once I’ve explained that the candidate will usually frown and ask, How much does a poll cost?

And I’ll say, Around $20,000.

And, more often than not, that’s the end of our conversation.

That newspaper report about a tsunami in Republicanland was a fine tale. It was a tale of ‘I loved you – but you betrayed me.’ The anger was riveting. But did a reporter spot a wildfire of rage rolling across Appalachia by interviewing a handful of people in one small town in the mountains west of Asheville?

No.

That story wasn’t revelation. It was an entertainment. Written to sell newspapers. For revelation you have to walk a harder road.

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17

I haven’t seen this much howling and gnashing of teeth since I can’t remember when: Mention the word Russia and The New York Times and the Washington Post start hopping up and down and Anderson Coopers turns steely-eyed while, over on the other side of the aisle, Tucker Carlson turns downright snarky.

The liberals are so terrified of Trump that when he hiccups it sends them into convulsions. But Trump’s not a wrecking-ball. Obamacare’s stuck. The Wall’s stuck. Trump’s a President who hasn’t done much at all. Gridlock rules.

Rather than going haywire every time Trump turns a Twitter somersault the liberals ought to take a deep breath, lean back, and laugh at his antics. And the conservatives? Every time The New York Times goes crazy about Trump Sean Hannity goes crazy about the Times – adding to the hysteria.

So did Trump collude with the Russians?

It’s not the media’s job to convict – or exonerate – Trump. That job belongs to Congress and, ultimately, the voters. What’s the media’s duty? To help us have a fair – and thorough – investigation.

We’re going through a crisis where errors in judgement have a cost. And the media – by holding a kangaroo court every night on the news – is doing more harm than good.

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07

Most times the roots of blindness – whether it’s blindness due to pride or meanness or fear – run down into the clay-footed soil of human nature but the other day Peggy Noonan spotted an odd phenomenon.

Noonan wrote: “News bias now is in part a financial decision.”

Back in the old days the New York Times, Washington Post and News and Observer made money by selling ads in the newspaper that landed on your doorstep every morning: Want ads. Classified ads. Car dealership ads. Grocery store ads. Then the Internet came along and print ads all but vanished and suddenly ‘clicks’ were what made money.

The other morning I clicked on the News and Observer’s website and there were eleven ads. I clicked on an article and there were seven more ads. Every time I clicked on an article I saw more ads. And that’s how newspapers make money today: Clicks equal ads. And more clicks equal more money.

Which leads to a second phenomenon: Who does the most clicking? In politics it’s the most fired-up Democrats and the most fired-up Trump supporters. The extremes.

So today newspapers and media websites are choosing sides, aligning with one white-hot group or the other, to get more clicks. Noonan put it this way: “You play to those who love (or hate I might add) Trump… and reap the profits.”

Click bait – headlines like ‘Does Everything Donald Trump Touches Die?’ (by Vanity Fair) – pours gas on a kind of craziness but also reap tons of clicks from Trump haters. While headlines like – Fake Media Witch Hunt – reap mountains of clicks from the other side of the spectrum.

Media bias today isn’t clay-footed misjudgment. It’s a grab for the money. How that works out for our country, well, we’ll see.

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06

Like a lightning bolt a ‘moment of clarity’ struck: On Meet the Press Chuck Todd was interviewing two Democrats about Nancy Pelosi’s future.  

Congressman Tim Ryan doffed his hat to Pelosi then said her time was past. It was time for Pelosi to go. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell didn’t like that one bit. She lavished praise on Pelosi until Todd asked one question – then revelation struck.

The question?

How can Democrats be the party of the future with Nancy Pelosi as their leader?

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Carter Wrenn
 
 
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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.”
 
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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.
 
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