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Bill Clinton’s old pollster Stanley Greenberg joins the pile piling onto Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

Greenberg’s most striking point is the campaign’s overreliance on “data analytics” and under-reliance on polls, focus groups and good old political gut. In other words, the campaign abandoned the very same techniques that made Bill Clinton a winner in 1992 and 1996. Bill devoured polls like Big Macs.

Charging Hillary’s campaign with “malpractice and arrogance,” Greenberg writes:

“The campaign relied far too heavily on something that campaign technicians call ‘data analytics.’ This refers to the use of models built from a database of the country’s 200 million–voters, including turnout history and demographic and consumer information, updated daily by an automated poll asking for vote preference to project the election result. But when campaign developments overtake the model’s assumptions, you get surprised by the voters—and this happened repeatedly.

“Astonishingly, the 2016 Clinton campaign conducted no state polls in the final three weeks of the general election and relied primarily on data analytics to project turnout and the state vote. They paid little attention to qualitative focus groups or feedback from the field, and their brief daily analytics poll didn’t measure which candidate was defining the election or getting people engaged.”

Hold the mayo! No state polls in the final three weeks? Do you see any connection with losing four battleground states by less than one point?

It’s easy to say, glibly: “I don’t trust polls.” There are plenty of bad polls and wrong polls. But you can’t beat a good poll for giving you an understanding of how people see an election, the candidates and the issues. Data analytics can tell you a lot about voters, but it can miss a lot. Obviously. Hillary’s campaign missed a lot.

Greenberg also writes about the now-legendary white working-class voters:

“Clinton and the campaign acted as if ‘demographics is destiny’ and that a ‘rainbow coalition’ was bound to govern. Yes, there is a growing ‘Rising American Electorate,’ but…you must give people a compelling reason to vote and I have demonstrated for my entire career that a candidate must target white working-class voters too.”

Greenberg says Democrats and progressives now need to ask:

“What is the role of the working class and white working class? How do you build off of anger toward an economy that fails the middle class, but still align with professionals, innovators, and metropolitan areas? How do you credibly battle corporate influence and corrupted politics? Can you simultaneously advance identity and class politics?”

If Democrats don’t solve those puzzles, they won’t seize the openings offered by Trump, Washington Republicans and the coming GOP civil war.

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When a politician takes a poll most folks figure he means to figure out how he can bamboozle people and there’s truth in that but a poll’s also a picture of the powers – like fear, revenge, blindness and rage – shaking the political world and even through a poll won’t show you angels and demons you might spot their tracks buried in the pages of statistics.

One poll – taken not long after protestors in Durham tore down a Confederate statue – asked, ‘Do you want to take down Confederate statues or leave them up?’ and by a margin of two to one people said, ‘leave them up.’ The Democratic Party’s base was the only exception.

Which meant, without knowing it, and probably without caring a toot one way or the other, the protestors in Durham had landed Roy Cooper in a crossfire: Roy’s base wanted Confederate statues taken down but the Ticket Splitters wanted to leave them up – so Roy needed a third solution and he amicably proposed one: Move them. Then he asked the Historical Commission to move three Confederate statues off the Capital grounds to a battlefield in Johnston County and my guess is that would simply have made both sides mad but, whatever might have happened, it didn’t matter as soon as Phil Berger weighed in.

Phil pointedly explained to Roy why the Historical Commission didn’t have the legal power to move those statues then asked Roy a blunt question: If you think Confederate statues are symbols of racism, why did you decide to leave up statues of a Democratic Governor who was a white supremacist, a Democratic Governor who served in the Confederate Army, and a statue of Democrat Andrew Jackson (who was no friend to minorities)?

He put Roy in a box: The Ticket Splitters already disagreed with Roy and as soon as the Democratic base, the only group who did agree with him, found out he was leaving up statues of Charles Aycock and Zeb Vance they were going to come knocking on his door.  

It was like watching a chess match. Roy moved. Phil moved. And when Phil set down his chess piece Roy was in danger of getting shot from both sides.

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It’s the crossfire dozens of Republican Senators and Congressmen are facing – it happened to a Congresswoman in Alabama like this: The Republican State Legislator challenging her in the primary said, ‘It’s a choice between me, the first guy to endorse Trump, or a Congresswoman who said Trump was unfit to serve’ and make no mistake: That bite has teeth. The Republicans who vote in Primaries like Trump a lot more than they like Washington Republicans.

That’s one jaw of the trap. The other is Independents. They don’t like Trump and, when a Congressman sides with Trump, he risks losing their votes and losing to a Democrat in the General Election.

One Congressman in South Carolina explained his dilemma this way: He said, I’ve got a Republican challenger who says I don’t vote with Trump enough and a Democratic challenger who says I vote with him too often.

That’s being caught in the crossfire.  

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Down in Alabama there’s an election – a Republican runoff – today and the Washington Republicans led by Mitch McConnell have moved heaven and earth to elect Luther Strange (who was appointed to Jeff Session’s Senate seat) while the Anti-Establishment-Trump-Populist Republicans (from Steve Bannon to Sean Hannity) want to elect Judge Roy Moore but there’s a twist in the story: Donald Trump is for the Establishment candidate.

Last Friday night Trump was in Alabama campaigning for ‘Big Luther’ Strange and it was pure Trump: He praised ‘Big Luther’ almost as much as he praised himself then trying the oldest trick in the book he said ‘Big Luther’ was a sure bet to win the General Election but he wasn’t so sure about Roy Moore.

The Swamp’s for Strange. Trump’s folks are against Strange. And Trump’s with the Swamp.

How do you figure that?

It gets even odder: Trump’s base doesn’t seem to care what Trump says – they voted against Luther Strange in the Primary and Roy Moore is now leading Strange in the Run-Off.

Last Friday night Trump climbed out on the end of a limb so today, down in Alabama, is his base going to salute and say, Yes, Sir, and vote against Roy Moore or is it going to saw the limb off behind Trump? And if it does what does it mean? By midnight we’ll know how the answer to the first question. The second question, well, we’ll have to wait awhile to see the answer.

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Last night’s installment of Ken Burns’s “The Vietnam War” recalled how divided our country was 50 years ago.

Today we’re just as divided. Thanks to Trump.

Apparently, the Divider-in-Chief doesn’t have enough on his plate with North Korea, Russia, Obamacare and hurricane relief. So he goes to Alabama and (surprise!) attacks athletes who happen to be black and who take a knee during the national anthem to protest racism and police shootings.

Hand it to Colin Kaepernick. However good he is at quarterback, he’s a master at starting a national conversation.

Except we can’t have a conversation. We have to attack, demonize and destroy each other if we disagree.

Thanks Trump.

This is the worst thing about him. It’s not just that he pits black against white, Democrat against Republican, Trump voter against Clinton voter, Tea Party Republican against Establishment Republican, NFL and NBA against NASCAR.

It’s that – always, always – he pits the worst in human nature against the best in human nature, against what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”

You see this in how some CEOs, politicians and maybe your family members seem emboldened by Trump to derogate and denigrate anybody they disagree with or don’t like. It’s open season. Be like Trump!

When Carter and I spoke at Quail Ridge Books a few weeks back, the question came up repeatedly: What happened to civility? Well, the man with the biggest microphone in America and 38.8 million Twitter followers has declared war on civility. 

The Vietnam series reminds us that it’s happened before. In 1968, Nixon got elected by setting black against white (the Southern Strategy), hard-hats against long-hairs, and his so-called Silent Majority against his Enemies List.

How did that work out? You could look it up.

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Stop saying Trump should stop Tweeting. Why should he? It works for him. He has 38.8 million Twitter followers, and he can talk directly to them.

That’s real communication power.

Instead of whining, Democrats need to get tweeting better. And there’s no better role model than 91-year-old former congressman John Dingell of Michigan.

Mashable wrote than Dingell, “has been quick, witty, and on fire with his 140 characters for years. Despite his age, he knows how to use the tweet machine the way it was intended: biting commentary, playful retweets, and insightful and smart reactions. Time and again he’s shown he’s mastered Twitter.”

After Charlottesville, Dingell tweeted:

“I signed up to fight Nazis 73 years ago and I’ll do it again if I have to. Hatred, bigotry, & fascism should have no place in this country.”

On Russia:

“Flynn lied about Russia.
“Kushner lied about Russia.
“Sessions lied about Russia.
“Trump Jr. lied about Russia.
“Trump is lying about Russia.”

Dingell has been doing it for years. 2014:

“Staff has now informed me of what a Kardashian is. I’m only left with more questions.”

I have one quibble with the Mashable article. The headline says: “91-year-old former congressman shows millennials how to tweet about Trump.”

Why millennials? What about the rest of us? Especially us aspiring geezers. And especially Democrats who want to run against Trump in 2020.

If you can’t tweet well, you can’t communicate in today’s world, and you have no business running for President.

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We need a break from politics. So today’s blog comes from our dog Ringo. It’s the first in a series of Doggy Bag restaurant reviews for dogs and their owners.

Sometimes I go out to eat with my people. (Note to Gary: dogs, like divas and big-time CEOs, have “people.” Not “owners.”)

This week, we visited the Char-Grill on Edwards Mill Road in Raleigh. My people have been Char-Grill fans for decades. Back then, Broughton and Saint Mary’s students hung out at the original Hillsborough Street location. Today, happily, there are many locations.

The highlight(s) of my visit were the French fries. They are fat and juicy, even though I tended to end up with the little, crispy dregs. Doggonit!

From the too-small portion I got, the signature char-grilled burgers are top of the line.

(Note: I never get enough to eat. That apparently is a trait of Labs. My mother was a Lab. Papa was a rolling stone. I’m a rescue mutt.)

My people enjoyed what appeared to be excessively large and thick milk shakes. They didn’t share with me – something to do with my digestive system, best I understood the conversation.

The outdoor seating at Char-Grill – a must for us dogs – is adequate. Unlike some fine establishments, there are no water bowls for dogs. And the other diners weren’t interested in sharing their meals with me. Bad people!

But the table height was conducive to foraging for ground scraps.

Ringo’s Rating for Char-Grill on Edwards Mill Road: Three Paws Up.

Only one reason it didn’t get the coveted Four Paws Up: No alcohol. I don’t partake, of course, but when my people do, they stay longer and I get fed more. Also, more people stop to pet me.

That’s all for now, doggy friends. Keep begging! They’ll give in.

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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For a brief moment, I thought my campaign against yard signs was gaining ground. One big-name candidate in Charlotte joined the cause.

Her campaign manager said, “As part of our commitment to a more sustainable Charlotte, we’ve decided not to pollute Charlotte’s roads, our right-of-ways, and our green spaces with yard signs, and we’re calling on our opponents to cut down on yard sign pollution as well.”

The candidate? Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, who lost her primary the next day.

Her loss surprised a lot of smart people. They blamed low turnout, the HB2 controversy and her handling of a police shooting.

But yard-sign fans know why she lost.

Clearly, nobody took my advice in Raleigh. There are ugly yard signs along roads and streets all over town.

Most of them are awful, even if you like yard signs. Empty space. Weak pastel colors. Names too small to make out. (I’m talking about you, Stacy Miller.)

If you’re driving any speed at all, you can’t even read most of them. Especially us geezers, who are most likely to vote.

If your signs aren’t big and bold, what’s the point?

(Note: It helps to have a name made for yard signs. “Jim Hunt” was perfect. Seven letters.)

The last nail in the coffin came from a TAPster here in Raleigh, who left this message:

“While I generally agree with you, there is one set of circumstances in which yard signs are extremely valuable, and I just encountered that circumstance in my neighborhood. I’ve been debating who to vote for in the at-large City Council races, and I just passed one of my neighbors’ homes. She has a yard sign for one candidate. Knowing her politics and knowing her views about things generally, the fact that she is supporting this candidate means that I absolutely, positively will never vote for that candidate.

“So there is a good use for a yard sign. My neighbor has solved my dilemma for me quite easily.”

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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Hillary Clinton’s book scrolls through a long list of reasons why she lost. But the real reason may boil down to one simple fact: race.

Specifically, the fact that the President she wanted to succeed – the President who endorsed her and enthusiastically campaigned for her – was black. Plus the fact that her opponent was (and is) an overt and unabashed white racist.

A lengthy, provocative article in the Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The First White President,” sums it up: “The foundation of Donald Trump’s presidency is the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy.”

Coates writes:

“For Trump, it almost seems that the fact of Obama, the fact of a black president, insulted him personally. The insult intensified when Obama and Seth Meyers publicly humiliated him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011. But the bloody heirloom ensures the last laugh. Replacing Obama is not enough—Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own….Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president….”

Coates demolishes the story that the “white working class” elected Trump, which he sees as willful blindness on the part of Democrats and liberals who want politics to always be about economics:

“Trump’s white support was not determined by income. According to Edison Research, Trump won whites making less than $50,000 by 20 points, whites making $50,000 to $99,999 by 28 points, and whites making $100,000 or more by 14 points. This shows that Trump assembled a broad white coalition that ran the gamut from Joe the Dishwasher to Joe the Plumber to Joe the Banker. So when white pundits cast the elevation of Trump as the handiwork of an inscrutable white working class, they are being too modest, declining to claim credit for their own economic class. Trump’s dominance among whites across class lines is of a piece with his larger dominance across nearly every white demographic. Trump won white women (+9) and white men (+31). He won white people with college degrees (+3) and white people without them (+37). He won whites ages 18–29 (+4), 30–44 (+17), 45–64 (+28), and 65 and older (+19). Trump won whites in midwestern Illinois (+11), whites in mid-Atlantic New Jersey (+12), and whites in the Sun Belt’s New Mexico (+5). In no state that Edison polled did Trump’s white support dip below 40 percent. Hillary Clinton’s did, in states as disparate as Florida, Utah, Indiana, and Kentucky. From the beer track to the wine track, from soccer moms to NASCAR dads, Trump’s performance among whites was dominant.”

And Coates isn’t optimistic about the future:

“The American tragedy now being wrought is larger than most imagine and will not end with Trump. In recent times, whiteness as an overt political tactic has been restrained by a kind of cordiality that held that its overt invocation would scare off ‘moderate’ whites. This has proved to be only half true at best. Trump’s legacy will be exposing the patina of decency for what it is and revealing just how much a demagogue can get away with. It does not take much to imagine another politician, wiser in the ways of Washington and better schooled in the methodology of governance—and now liberated from the pretense of antiracist civility—doing a much more effective job than Trump.

“It has long been an axiom among certain black writers and thinkers that while whiteness endangers the bodies of black people in the immediate sense, the larger threat is to white people themselves, the shared country, and even the whole world. There is an impulse to blanch at this sort of grandiosity. When W. E. B. Du Bois claims that slavery was ‘singularly disastrous for modern civilization’ or James Baldwin claims that whites have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white,’ the instinct is to cry exaggeration. But there really is no other way to read the presidency of Donald Trump. The first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president—and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.”

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Some Democrats are popping corks over two stories.

First, Steve Bannon promised a civil war in the Republican Party.

Second, in North Carolina, the number of Unaffiliated voters exceeds Republicans for the first time:

  • Democrats: 2,640,470
  • Unaffiliated: 2,055,548
  • Republicans: 2,055,493

Hold the champagne.

First, we’ve got our own civil war – between Clinton Democrats and Sanders Democrats. You see the bitterness in the reaction to Hillary Clinton’s new book.

Second, we’ve got a challenge among Unaffiliateds. A recent statewide poll showed that they break down this way ideologically:

  • Liberal 24%
  • Moderate 22%
  • Conservative 42%

If you assume the conservative Unaffiliateds vote Republican, then Democrats have to win virtually all the liberals AND moderates. Democrats should keep that in mind as they decide which way to go now.

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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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