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Governor’s wife, First Lady, United States Senator, Cabinet Secretary – for four decades Hillary’s breathed the air of politics. She’s the Politician in the race for President.

Donald Trump will tell you in the blink of an eye he’s a Dealmaker. A great Dealmaker. But he could have named his book The Art of ‘Selling’ the Deal. Because in his bones Trump’s a Salesman. He’s combative. And vain. He has a TV star’s flair for the dramatic. But, most of all, Donald Trump is a Salesman.

And, in a  nutshell, that’s the goal of his Convention: To sell Trump. Scorch Hillary. And close the deal. And, in Philadelphia, at her convention, Hillary will try to do the same thing: Scorch Trump. And sell Hillary.

And the two conventions mirror the choice we face in November: Do we want to elect a Politician or a Salesman to the White House?

In the end the answer may come down to weighing risks: We know more Washington Politics will fail. It’s failed for years. But we also know the harm that failure may bring. We’ve watched that for years too. We know the price to be paid for electing another Politician.

But the Salesman is more enigmatic. We ask: Will Trump fail or succeed as President? And, then, we wonder: And if he fails, will he do more harm than Hillary? And the truth is we don’t know.

The Salesman will tell us at his convention there is no risk. None. Not a bit. And at her convention the Politician will paint a portrait of doom: She will tell us electing the Salesman will be more deadly than sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind.

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As you watch the Republican convention, you see why Donald Trump picked Mike Pence as his running mate: There’s no chance Pence will steal the spotlight from the star.

There’s only one star in this show, and it’s Donald Trump. And all the co-stars, like all his products and possessions, are also named Trump (Melania, Ivanka).

Unlike Chris Christie or Newt Gingrich, Pence is unlikely to elbow his way onto the stage. He’s as colorless as Trump is colorful. Even his hair is as colorless as Trump’s is colorful.

Conventional wisdom looks at running mates for which states or voting blocs they might help the ticket win. But that’s exaggerated. It hasn’t happened since LBJ helped JFK win Texas, 56 years ago.

Pence might be a gesture to religious conservatives who aren’t sold on a Manhattan sybarite who is on his third wife, brags about his sexual prowess and is unpredictable on issues like gays and abortion.

But, really, the Veep pick matters mainly for what it tells us about the man or woman who would be President. After all, it’s their first big decision. What and how they decide tells us something.

Pence tells us this campaign is all about Trump. But we knew that.

The way Trump picked Pence is revealing: on the fly, by the gut, with little of the usual due diligence and all by himself, with little input from anybody outside the family.

That’s the way Trump has always done business. That’s the way he has run his campaign. And that’s the way he’ll operate as President.

Now we all get to ponder that reality (as opposed to reality show). Pence’s job, meanwhile, is simple: Don’t crowd the Donald. And don’t screw up (See: Sarah Palin).


During the convention, The Charlotte Observer is publishing our blogs. This arrangement raises our standards and lowers theirs.

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The other day a newspaper reporter called and asked, Did you know Hillary’s Super PAC has spent $9 million to buy TV time in North Carolina? I didn’t. And, it turned out, they’d actually spent $12.5 million.

Next, I looked to see how much Donald Trump was spending. The first story I found – in the Wall Street Journal – said, Lagging in fundraising, Donald Trump has aired Zero TV ads in the last month. Another story in US Today said, Hillary has aired 20,000 ads since June 8, Trump O.

Then, a couple of days later, Hillary aired two new TV ads.

The first ad started with a clip of a reporter interviewing Trump, asking: Who are you consulting with consistently so you’re ready on day one? And of Trump replying: I’m speaking with myself because I have a very good brain.

Hillary’s first ad showed Donald Trump bragging about Donald Trump’s brain.

In politics there’s an old truism: When people are making up their minds who to vote for two things matter: A candidate’s stands on the issues and his or her character. Of the two, character is more intangible but it’s also more potent.

As a candidate Hillary Clinton’s a dud. But those ads are not duds.

Hillary’s campaign has zeroed in on Donald Trump’s character.

For the next four days – during the Republican Convention – Donald Trump is going to be the star of the most watched TV program in America. By Thursday night when the gavel falls he needs to give people a reason to vote for Donald Trump – because of his character.

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For a time, we all had high hopes for this Republican convention. Maybe it wouldn’t be the usual snooze-a-thon. Maybe it would fulfill the fantasy of all political junkies: an open convention!

That would mean fireworks. A dump-Trump move. A party divided. Angry protests. A whiff of violence in the hall. Bitter fights between Establishment Republicans and Trump Republicans.

No such luck. But, still, this won’t be your father’s Republican convention.

After all, it’s “The Donald Trump Show.”

The question will be whether Trump, a master at branding and reputation-building, can rebrand himself and rebuild his reputation enough to have a chance to win in November.

On today’s market, Trump is unelectable. He long ago lost the votes of blacks and Hispanics. He scares young voters. He alienated huge numbers of Independent women, who are the key swing voters. He left a big chunk of traditional Republican voters debating whether to sit this one out, vote for Gary Johnson or even do the unthinkable and vote for Hillary Clinton.

Now he has four nights of national television to prove himself.

Now he’s the Apprentice, and we decide whether he’s hired or fired.

How he manages his convention – and how he manages a party that still isn’t really his – will tell Americans a lot about whether they can picture President Trump sitting in the Oval Office.

It will partly be how his running mate Mike Pence looks to the world.

It will partly be what other Republicans say – or don’t say – when they get their turn at the microphone.

It will partly be how Trump’s supporters look and act during the convention. Do they look like good solid folks? Or do they scare the living hell out of the rest of us?

It above all will be how Trump’s acceptance speech goes Thursday night.

It surely will be better TV than the last two Republican conventions, starring John McCain and Mitt Romney. The only excitement at either one was Sarah Palin, and you know how that turned out.

So now, live from Cleveland, it’s The Donald Trump Show!

During the convention, you can also read our blogs at The Charlotte Observer’s opinion pages.

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A Republican friend read me the riot act – he said: You ought to stop writing about Trump’s bragging and bullying and start harpooning Hillary. If liberals get control of the Supreme Court the country’s down the tubes. So who do you want appointing justices – Hillary or Trump? Hillary’ll probably appoint Obama.

The prospect of Barack Obama on the Supreme Court took my breath away.

And I had no problem with lampooning Hillary.

But, still, there’s one question – that effects the future – it would be unwise to ignore: How on earth did we end up with two candidates running for President who most people dislike?

The answer to that question won’t salvage this election. But it may, down the road, be a key to electing the kind of leader we need. And if we whitewash either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton – we won’t find the answer.

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The four newspaper headlines told a troubling story.

‘Hillary Outraises Trump.’

‘Cooper Outraises McCrory.’

‘Ross Outraises Burr.’

‘Stein Outraises Newton’ (for Attorney General).

What the heck – has some evil genie appeared out of thin air showering money on Democrats?

There was one glimmer of good news: Deborah Ross raised more than Richard Burr last quarter, but Burr has $7 million cash in the bank – a lot more than Deborah Ross. But, at the same time, Roy Cooper has $3 million more in the bank than Pat McCrory and Josh Stein has $1.8 million more than Buck Newton.

Pat having $3 million less than Roy in July isn’t fatal but still…Republicans losing the fundraising war: Let’s hope it turns out to be a bump in the road. And not a sign.

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Here’s one way Washington Politicians plant the seeds of a train wreck: Republican Leaders and Political Masterminds are telling anxious Senators and Congressmen the fall election is looking just fine: That the ‘Generic Ballot’ questions – like, ‘In the election for US Congress this fall are you more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate?’ – they’re asking in polls show Republicans ahead.  

Their prognosis works brilliantly as a balm to calm the fears of skittish politicians but as campaign strategy it rests on shaky ground: When the rubber meets the road on Election Day the names on the ballot swaying voters will be Hillary and Donald – not Generic Republican or Generic Democrat. An ‘R’ beside your name won’t spell salvation.

No doubt Republicans are comforting one another with all this cooing but they aren’t fooling Democrats: The DCCC just announced its spending a million dollars to defeat ten Republican candidates for Congress by tying them to Donald Trump.

For over four decades Republicans used more or less the same strategy here in North Carolina – we tied local Democrats like Jim Hunt or Kay Hagan to unpopular national Democrats like Walter Mondale or Barack Obama. And it worked.   

This election the shoes on the other foot.

But in Washington Republican ostriches are telling Republican candidates: Don’t worry. The Generic Ballot will save you.

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There’s no need for Roy Cooper’s campaign to spin this one, and no use in Pat McCrory’s campaign trying to spin out of it.

Cooper is crushing McCrory in fundraising.

There are only two ways to keep score in politics before Election Day: polls and money.

The polls are close in the Governor’s race. The money isn’t.

In the second quarter, Cooper outraised McCrory – $5.1 million to $3.2 million. A statistician will tell you that’s nearly a 5-to-3 edge.

To date, Cooper has outraised McCrory $12.7 million to $8.7 million. That’s nearly half again as much.

Cooper leads in cash on-hand by $9.4 million to $6.3 million. That’s 3-to-2.

Now, this isn’t the whole story. Super PACs will spend a lot, maybe more than the campaigns.

But the numbers say a lot about which campaign has momentum.

The McCrory campaign’s response was lame: McCrory is on the job while Cooper is raising money. Well, we all know McCrory is raising money, too. And he would be bragging if the numbers were reversed.

McCrory’s campaign better be careful with that spin. If Cooper is better at raising money for his campaign, maybe he’d be better at recruiting jobs for North Carolina.


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They may be fighting because they’re both from the same town and New York’s not big enough for the two of them but regardless of the root of their animosity there’s no doubt Donald Trump sets the New York Times’ teeth on edge.

A few days ago the Times ran a front page story claiming Donald Trump may refuse to serve as President if he defeats Hillary in November – that after this election Trump may say, That’s it. I’m done. I don’t want to be President.

The Times then went into great detail spelling out what would happen next – after Trump withdrew: How the Electoral College would pick someone else to be President and how, if the Electoral College deadlocked, the House of Representatives would pick the new President.

At times I’ve said some unkind things about Donald Trump – for stretching the truth – but this week the New York Times takes the cake.

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A nation already deeply divided by race and politics is now divided more deeply by race, murder and retribution.

Videos show police officers killing black suspects. Videos show the carnage as a black sniper kills police officers in revenge.

We line up: Black Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter. All Lives Matter. To invoke one or the other is to provoke one of the other.

There was an election year not so long ago when it felt like racism, hate and violence would tear our country apart. But we had a leader then who found a way to speak to all of us. He said:

“In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black…you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization–black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.

“Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love….

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black….

“We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we’ve had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.

“But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.

“Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

“Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.”

That was Senator Robert F. Kennedy speaking to a black audience in Indianapolis, Indiana, on April 4, 1968, the night Martin Luther King was shot and killed. Two months later, Kennedy was shot and killed.


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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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