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Three factors carried North Carolina for Hagan, Perdue and – maybe – Obama. It is a mistake to ascribe the result to any one of the three alone.

First was the public’s rejection of George Bush because of the economic crisis. In a sense, 2008 was just a continuation of the 2006 election cycle. Voters were mad at Bush two years ago over Iraq. They were mad at him this time over the economy.

Second was the inspiration and the perspiration of the Obama campaign. Obama is one part JFK inspiration and one part Reagan optimism. Add in the historic nature of an African-American (literally) President. Combine with the most efficient, organized campaign America has ever seen – and a bottomless checkbook.

Third was changing population and changing attitudes. Sticking here with the Rule of Three, there were three groups of voters who were decisive: African-Americans, young voters and those described by David Brooks of the New York Times as people who live near universities. That is, educated voters doing knowledge and information work.

HAGAN VS. DOLE: I disagree with the theory that Dole lost because she ran the “godless” ad. It’s the other way around. She ran the godless ad because she was losing. She had two problems: George Bush and Chuck Shumer. Bush dragged her and all Republicans down. Chuck Shumer of the DSCC came at her with millions of dollars and a meat ax. Hagan’s campaign was not particularly inspired; she was just at the right place at the right time. She is the first Democrat to win a Senate race in a presidential year in North Carolina since Sam Ervin in 1968.

PERDUE VS. MCCRORY: Perdue may have won the Democratic primary by being positive, but she won the general election by being negative. She outspent McCrory and she ripped him apart on roads, regional bias, Yankee garbage and even – at the very end – illegal immigration. Contrary to what she said, she owes a lot to Obama for boosting the straight-party voting, but she also peeled off enough white Democrats in the east to win.

ELECTION NIGHT SPEECHES: I am a veteran – and a connoisseur – of victory and concession speeches. Obama and McCain gave brilliant addresses. Both spoke to the best in America. Both were graceful and gracious. Democrats should be relieved McCain kept that side of himself hidden until after the election was over. McCain has the distinction now of having lost the Presidency twice because of George Bush, who beat him in 2000 and caused him to lose this year.

The Big Four in North Carolina all gave disappointing speeches. Dole was unrepentant, even defiant. She complained about “tons of negative ads” being dumped on her by big money and “people from far-away places.” She was right, but election night is not a time for whining. Hagan was just as ungracious, crowing “it’s not her (Dole’s) office.”

McCrory became the first candidate in memory to declare himself the loser before the media did. And Perdue did her best imitation of a fifth-grade teacher, reprimanding the boisterous crowd before reciting the night’s lesson.

YESTERDAY’S NEWS: This adds insult to injury for Dole. In my neighborhood this morning, the day after the election, the N&O came wrapped in a bag sponsored by the NRA endorsing Dole.

That sums up the kind of day it was for Republicans.

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