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After a year of pummeling the Washington Establishment and vilifying Washington Politicians Donald Trump, at last, dangled a carrot: If he is the nominee, Trump said, he will be happy to raise money for the Republican Party.

It was a clever gambit: Trump dangled the vision of millions of dollars flowing into the Republican National Committee (to help pay fees for pollsters and consultants who make up the Establishment’s political army) then rolling down the pipelines from Washington to state parties to elect candidates for Senate and Congress the Insiders support.

Trump had found a key to unlock the heart of even the most hide-bound Washington Insider: He’d offered the oldest trade on earth, You get the cash and I get what I want, too.

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Pat McCrory is like the schoolboy who knows it’s wrong for the bullies to pick on the weak kid. But instead of standing up, he goes along with the bullies.

It is an absolute failure of moral leadership.

Republicans can spin it how they will, but this is about picking on politically vulnerable people to get votes. It’s bullying. And it’s fitting for a party that’s about to nominate a loud-mouthed bully for President.

You suspect McCrory knows better. After Charlotte passed the ordinance, he said the legislature should leave it alone. Then he declined to call a special session. But he stood aside when Phil Berger and Dan Forest called the session. He remained silent all day during the session. He signed the bill. Stealthily. At night.

Now, many in my generation aren’t clear on this issue. They aren’t clear about the definitions of transgender, transsexual and queer.

But it’s clear we’re talking about people, many of them adolescents, who are struggling with their sexual identity. And there is no more difficult issue for teenagers (and many adults) than sex. Their struggles can lead to drugs, depression and suicide.

The best test here is: What would Jesus do? Would he make these people political piñatas? Or would he show them kindness, compassion and sensitivity?

McCrory and the Republican legislators chose the path of cruelty.

This isn’t about men invading women’s bathrooms. That can happen anyway, and it’s a crime now. This is about politics.

Roy Cooper, after initially having hesitated on the issue, stood strong: “North Carolina is better than this. Discrimination is wrong, period. That North Carolina is making discrimination part of the law is shameful. It will not only cause real harm to families, but to our economy as well.”

Senate Democrats didn’t just stand up, they walked out. It was an eloquent statement.

Most House Democrats stood up, fought back and said no. A few went along, but in time they’ll have to answer to their own consciences.

At times like this, I recall the finest hour of my old boss, Governor Jim Hunt. It was 1984, and he was running for the Senate against Jesse Helms. Hunt was a rising star in politics. If he unseated Helms, he might even become President.

Helms was fighting against a national holiday for Martin Luther King. He filibustered against the bill on the floor of the Senate.

Some of Governor Hunt’s conservative supporters urged him to take a pass. But Hunt supported the holiday. When Helms attacked him on it in a debate, Hunt shot back:

“My gracious, how far back do you want to take us? This is a state that’s making progress, Jesse. You’re just out of touch with it. And the reason we’re growing and making progress the way we are is because people are working together. They care about each other, and they’re not following the kind of negative, divisive leadership that you’ve been giving.”

Maybe Hunt was wrong about the politics of it, for he lost the election. But he passed the moral test – and won the judgment of history. He did the right thing, even though it hurt him politically.

McCrory failed that test. Cooper passed it.

And this battle is not over.

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Republican “leaders” have been too cowardly and too inept to take on Donald Trump. Not Hillary Clinton.

She’s the one person in American politics today who has the toughness, the fortitude and, yes, the balls to stop the gold-plated Manhattan egomaniac from getting to the White House.

Republicans waited for Trump to do himself in. Then they waited for somebody else to do him in. Now they’re whining for somebody to do him in before he does them in.

Except for the ones who are rationalizing their cowardice by saying they’ll “support the nominee of the party.”

The only Republican who could beat him, Ted Cruz, is also the only Republican who could be a worse President than Trump.

Yes, I know all the complaints about Hillary. And she does have high negatives. Some are because she’s named Clinton, and some are because she’s named Hillary. But one person in American politics has even higher negatives: Trump.

Already, Hillary’s allies are doing the opposition research on Trump that Republicans should have done long ago. Like how he’s cheated and mistreated people who worked with him and for him in business.

Hillary won’t hold back when she finds his weak spots. She’s been fighting – and whipping – people like Trump all her life: Nixon, Arkansas Republicans, the vast right-wing conspiracy and her opponents in New York. And she got plenty of experience handling madmen as Secretary of State.

She’s a fighter. She’s got the scars and bruises to show for it. And she’s got what it takes to do what Republicans with little hands couldn’t and wouldn’t do.


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Talk about a politician doing an about face. And another about face. And a third about face.

Six years ago when she was elected to Congress, Renee Ellmers ran as an Outsider. But after she arrived in Washington, wooed by the Establishment, made a fuss over by House Speaker John Boehner, she had a change of heart. And became an Insider. She rolled along more or less fitfully for six years, loyally voting with the Establishment, then the unexpected happened and she found herself in a tough Special Election (on June 7) in a year when Washington Insiders are about popular with Primary voters as the plague.

In a fix, needing to shed herself of her Insider label, the day of North Carolina’s Presidential Primary she tweeted, I voted for Donald Trump – then shot out an email saying “ignore the negativity coming from the Washington Establishment and get behind Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.”

It was too cute by half and like a lot of cute ideas it backfired.

A week earlier at the Chatham County Republican Convention, to hold a straw poll, they’d handed every Republican a pebble and told them to drop it in the bucket of the candidate for President they were voting for – and a reporter had clicked a photo of Congresswoman Ellmers, cradling her pebble in her hand, then tweeted, ‘She dropped the pebble in John Kasich’s bucket.

After she voted for Kasich, Congresswoman Ellmers explained to the reporter, He sounds the most mature.

A week later, when the Congresswoman decided it was time to turn herself back into an Outsider, the reporter simply reposted the photograph and tweeted, Last week she told me she was for Kasich – and Congresswoman Ellmers’ third about face fizzled.

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Good ol’ Harry Reid gave the Republican Party hell last week for creating its Trump Frankenstein monster. Reid just didn’t go far enough.

In a Washington speech, “Give ‘em hell” Harry said GOP leaders who now denounce Trump are to blame for Trump:

“The Republican establishment acts bewildered. But they should not be bewildered. As much as they may try to distance themselves from Trump now, Republican leaders are responsible for his rise. Republican leaders created the drought conditions; Donald Trump has simply struck the match.”

Reid traced Trump’s rise to Republicans’ determination to block anything and everything President Obama proposed, including health-care reform, financial reforms, the post-2008-crash stimulus, middle-class tax cuts and more.

“Many of these ideas originated with Republicans and nearly all of them had previously enjoyed bipartisan support. Yet one by one, they were rejected by Republican leaders who repeated the big lie: ‘If Obama supports it, it won’t help you.’ … On issue after issue, Republican leaders faced a choice: Help their constituents put food on the table, literally, or stick it to President Obama. Time after time, Republicans chose to stick it to President Obama instead of helping their own constituents.”

“Republicans spent eight years torching the institutions Americans once relied on to help them face the challenges of their daily lives. Instead of engaging on policy, Republicans simply told Americans there was nothing to be done. So what thrived in the wasteland Republican leaders created? Resentment, hatred — which Republican leaders were all too eager to embrace and too cowardly to renounce.”

Reid is right. But he could have gone farther. Like 50 years back.

Trump is the logical consequence of the Republican Party’s course since 1964, when it nominated Barry Goldwater, renounced its century-long commitment to civil rights and began attacking government as the source of all evil.

Trump voters figure government is a joke, so why not vote for a joke?

It’s only a matter of time before Republican leaders start convincing themselves that (1) maybe Trump can beat Hillary, so (2) maybe Trump’s not so bad after all.


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Last Monday, the day before the Presidential Primary, Congresswoman Renee Ellmers spent the day campaigning and tweeting and posting photographs of herself (speaking at events) on Facebook then returned home to Dunn for the night.

Up in Washington, the same night, the House voted on a resolution condemning ISIS for committing genocide against Christians – which would seem to be an incontrovertible fact except for one hitch: Secretary of State John Kerry had said he had doubts about whether ISIS chopping off Christians heads met the legal definition of genocide.

Every member of Congress from North Carolina, Democrat and Republican, was in Washington that night to vote on the resolution – except Congresswoman Ellmers, who stayed in Dunn in order to return to the campaign trail the next morning, tweeting and posting pictures.

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President Obama’s Supreme Court move was brilliant. He put Senate Republicans in a box the very day they faced up to the prospect of a Trump electoral disaster in November.

The Republicans can either confirm Merrick Garland, a mild and moderate choice by most accounts, or they can take their chances on the next President’s pick.

If Trump is the GOP nominee and a Democratic sweep ensues, then Hillary Clinton picks the next Supreme Court Justice, who wins easy confirmation because Democrats pick up a slew of Senate seats. Like North Carolina’s, meaning Deborah Ross votes, not Richard Burr.

Which leads to my favorite scenario: Clinton picks Barack Obama. Who then serves on the court for, say, 30-plus years. Locks in a progressive majority. And eventually becomes Chief Justice.


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Barack Obama’s 2008 election was about hope. This one will be about hate.

Two savvy political veterans, a Republican and a Democrat, agreed this week on one thing: a Trump-Clinton race will bring us historic levels of negativity, bitterness and, yes, hate.

The Democrat added, “Hate is a greater motivator than love. It could be a record turnout.”

Trump has the highest negatives of any presidential candidate in history. His bluster, bigotry and boastfulness turn off millions of voters, especially women and minorities.

Clinton has a healthy legion of haters just from being at the center of national politics for a quarter-century, plus all the controversies and Republican-fueled scandals that follow Bill and her like the cloud of dust following Pigpen.

Republicans now have to decide whether to live with Trump or have a bloody convention fight to stop him.

Their dilemma was summed up by another Republican friend. Asked (before Tuesday’s results) about November, she dodged the question by saying the GOP’s best alternative was “a strong Rubio.” Unfortunately, “a strong Rubio” is like a unicorn. It doesn’t exist. And now even the illusion is gone.

John Kasich? He sounded like he just won reelection as Governor of Ohio. Ohio may be a key state in electing a President, Governor, but it’s not the only state.

Which leaves Ted Cruz, who may prove to be more hate-able than Trump.

Trump knows his problem. He was subdued on stage last night. Instead of showing off Trump products, he showed off his family.

Clinton delivered a blistering attack on Trump. She may be losing her voice, but she hasn’t lost her inner warrior.

You think this has been a rough, mean and nasty election? You ain’t seen nothing yet.


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Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are wildly different, but weirdly alike.

Sanders was a wild-haired radical who became a white-haired “Democratic socialist” and is roiling the Democratic establishment.

Trump was a weird-haired excess symbol who became a reality TV star and is running roughshod over the Republican establishment.

Both are buoyed by blue-collar voters who feel screwed by the political and economic establishment. Both promise a political revolution. Both make big promises.

Trump will build a wall, stop ISIS and make America great again. We’ll win so much we’ll get tired of winning.

Sanders will give us good jobs at a living wage, equal pay for women, college for all, health care for all and a retirement where we can relax and enjoy our grandchildren.

Trump will crack down on the hedge fund boys, and Sanders will break up the big banks.

Both of them grow out of the continued fallout from the Great (Bush) Recession that began in 2008.

Just as Great Depression of the ‘30s shaped – and sometimes warped – our parents and grandparents, the Great Recession today is shaping us, shaking up both parties and reshaping our politics.

There’s no telling where this leads.


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When George Holding first ran for Congress, I wrote a series of reports about how campaigns are built day to day. Now, four years later, George has a primary with Congresswoman Renee Ellmers and I’m going to do the same thing again.

I should point out, at the beginning, I’m not unbiased. I worked with George’s father, uncles and brother in Jesse Helms’s campaigns. I’ve known George for over thirty years and I’ve worked for his campaign, making TV ads. (I should also add I worked with Congresswoman Ellmers the first time she ran in 2010, when she defeated Democratic Congressman Bob Etheridge.)

A month ago, George was running for reelection in the 13th District – without a Primary. Then a federal court turned the world turned upside down by telling the State Legislature to redraw North Carolina’s Congressional Districts – and an odd thing happened: The legislators picked George’s district up, airlifted it across the state, and dropped it in the rolling foothills of the Piedmont.

Not one person in the district George has represented for four years now lives in what’s called the ‘New 13th District.’

Next the legislators redrew Congresswoman Renee Ellmers’s District – the old 2nd District – removing 7 of 9 counties. Then they moved most of the people George had represented in Wake County into Congresswoman Ellmers’s ‘New 2nd District.’

When the smoke cleared, 63% of the voters in the ‘New 2nd District’ were people George had represented for four years and 13% were people Congresswoman Ellmers had represented during the same time.

The remaining 24% of the voters were from other districts.

The ‘unexpected’ happens and, in politics, when it does there’s no time for star-gazing. George had to do two things quickly: 1) Start raising money for a Special Primary Election on June 7. And 2) take a poll.

When the poll was done it showed that, in the 63% of the District George had represented for four years, he led Ellmers by over 20 points. Conversely, in the 13% of the District Ellmers had represented she led by a similar margin.

In the new part of the district neither George or Renee were well-known.

According to the poll, Ellmers also has a couple of additional challenges.

In this new district 51% of the voters describe themselves as Very Conservative, 23% as Somewhat Conservative, 22 % as Moderate and exactly 1.3% as Liberal.

Renee, it turns out, is philosophically out of step with voters – when asked whether they saw Congresswoman Ellmers as a Conservative, Moderate or Liberal voters said she is:

            Very Conservative                  4.7%

            Somewhat Conservative        18%

            Moderate                               37%

            Liberal                                     15%

In a district where 74% of the voters are Conservative, Renee Ellmers is viewed by 52% of the voters as a Moderate or Liberal.

We also asked voters how they view ‘Washington Politicians’ and the answer was simple: They’re universally loathed. We then asked who they viewed as a Washington Politician – Renee Ellmers or George Holding. And the answer was Renee hands down.

We asked questions about issues and I may write more about down the road but for now one will do: Right off the bat, Renee’s campaign came out swinging, attacking George, saying he’d voted against the ‘Farm Bill’ while Renee had voted for it – so George was going to lose the support of farmers.

But, it turns out, the Farm Bill’s not really a farm bill – it’s a Food Stamp Bill. 80% of the spending in the bill goes to pay for Food Stamps. George voted against it because he wanted to cut Food Stamp spending, require workfare, and require drug-testing.

When asked about Renee’s attack on George, 75% of the voters agreed with George while only 7% agreed with Renee.

And that’s where George stands: He has a substantial lead. There’re a fair amount of undecided voters. Who dislike Washington Politicians. And disagree with Renee’s attack on George.

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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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