Contact: John N. Davis, 919-696-3859; firstname.lastname@example.org
“That’s the great risk Republicans run, assuming that because they’ve been given all the power they can do what they please without regard to the fact that we are a perfectly balanced state,” says John Davis, an influential nonpartisan political consultant.
GOVERNING Magazine, July 2014
John Davis Political Report
The Best of 2014
NOTE: Subscribers receive report one week before posting here.
Bottom Line: Big night for Republicans in the state and nation, with the driving force in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race being the fact that more voters were concerned about Hagan’s voting record with Obama than were concerned about Tillis’ conservatism.
- North Carolina Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis defeated North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan by 48,501 votes out of a midterm election record turnout of 2,891,363 voters. He will serve in a solid 53-seat Republican majority in the U.S Senate, likely headed by Mitch McConnell, the current Senate Minority Leader.
- Tillis won despite $35,569,285 spent by outside groups on attack ads against him, the most spent against any U.S. Senate candidate in the country in the most expensive U.S. Senate race in the country, with $111 million accounted for as of Election Day.
- Hagan raised $22,945,496 to Tillis’ $9,055,347.
- North Carolina’s 13-member delegation to the US House of Representatives will have 10 Republicans and three Democrats. All incumbents won easily, as did newcomers Alma Adams, a Democrat in Democrat Mel Watt’s seat, and David Rouzer, a Republican in Democrat Mike McIntyre’s seat (the one-seat pick up for the GOP). US House 250 Republicans; 185 Democrats.
- North Carolina’s 50-member Senate will have a 34-member Republican super majority, a gain of one, with Democrat Gene McLaurin losing to challenger Tom McInnis. All incumbent Senate Republicans won reelection, and all Open GOP seats were won by Republicans. There will be a 16-member Democratic minority in the state Senate.
- North Carolina’s 120-member House will have 74 Republicans and 46 Democrats. Both chambers maintained their Republican super majorities.
- North Carolina’s 7-member Supreme Court will be led by Chief Justice Mark Martin, a Republican, who will preside over a 4-3 Republican majority. Sam Ervin, a Democrat, defeated Republican Bob Hunter. Justices Robin Hudson and Cheri Beasley, both Democrats, fended off strong Republican challenges.
- North Carolina’s 15-member Court of Appeals will have a Republican majority thanks to former Judge John Tyson’s victory in the 19-candidate race for Democrat Chief Judge John Martin’s seat. Lucy Inman, a Democrat, is the other newcomer to the court (Democrat Bob Hunter is retiring). Judge Mark Davis, a Democrat, won another term handily. Republican Judge Donna Stroud ran unopposed.
Tillis Tops List as Most Attacked U.S. Senate Candidate: Recent national news stories have reported that North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race between Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House Thom Tillis is likely to top the list of the most expensive U.S. Senate races in 2014, with spending in excess of $100 million.
Two-thirds of that $100 million is being spent by national independent groups, with 80% going to negative attack ads. A Washington Post analysis of who is “bearing the brunt of all of that negativity” shows that no candidate in America has had more money spent against them on negative ads than Thom Tillis in North Carolina.
A whopping $32 million has been spent on negative attack ads alone against Tillis.
Unfortunately for Hagan and North Carolina Democrats, the negative barrage of TV ads against Tillis has had two unintended consequences: Hagan’s five-point lead is down to zero; Hagan’s job disapproval is up five points.
Women and Blacks Down on Democratic Party: According to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted October 9-12, 2014, the Democratic Party has the worst Favorable (39%) to Unfavorable (51%) impression among Americans since 1984. What is most surprising, is that the downward spiral is driven by the disaffection of women and Black voters.
- Among African-Americans, the positive image of the Democratic Party has declined by 17 points (82% to 65%) since August
- Among women, the positive image of the Democratic Party has declined by 13 points (from 54% to 41%) since August
Democrats were already struggling against midterm election year odds of low turnout among their most loyal constituencies. Now, a dramatic disaffection of their most loyal constituencies.
As to what is behind the loss of favor for Democratic leadership? According to Gallup, voters simply trust Republicans more than Democrats to handle the most important problems of the day like jobs and the economy, ISIS, foreign affairs, the federal budget deficit, and the way government works. The only top issue voters prefer Democrats to manage is equal pay for women.
Republicans on Track to Neutralize the Democrats’ Ground Game
If there is a game changer in the 2014 general election it is likely to be a superior GOP ground game that neutralizes the digital voter communications and turnout advantage Democrats established in 2008 and 2012. That potential is the result of an early commitment by the RNC to an in-house tech incubator called Para Bellum Labs, complete with 50 geeks and the best hardware and software money can buy, along with the allied support of organizations like Americans for Prosperity, who have committed tens of millions of dollars just to a ground game in 2014.
Of course, the Democrats are not ignoring the opportunity in 2014 to keep their digital advantage. They are operating under an umbrella called Project Ivy, scaling the highly successful Obama data-mining, contact and turnout operation to campaigns like North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race. And, there are many allied groups from unions to Planned Parenthood spending tens of millions of dollars to turn out African-Americans, single women and young voters.
Never doubt the ability of Democrats to turn out their voters in 2014.
Never doubt the ability of Republicans to match or surpass the Democrats’ turnout in 2014.
On Monday, September 22, 2014, the latest statewide poll of likely voters, released by High Point University, showed the race where it was in January, virtually tied with Hagan at 42% and Tillis at 40% (6% for Libertarian Sean Haugh; 12% Undecided or won’t say).
Key Question: So why is Kay Hagan struggling to seize a commanding lead in the race with Tillis despite a year-long fundraising and spending advantage? Because by an overwhelming margin, likely North Carolina voters disapprove of the job she and President Obama are doing.
- President Barack Obama’s Job Approval is 38%; Disapprove 57%
- Senator Kay Hagan’s Job Approval is 39%; Disapprove 50%
Historically, midterm elections are a referendum on the White House. With North Carolina voters having such low regard for the White House, ads saying “Hagan votes with the President 95% of the time” are keeping her disapproval numbers high and her potential for victory low.
Ultimately, this race will end in a tie with turnout operations determining the winner.
Nothing chills political fundraising more than the intimidating word from the majority party leadership that anyone who supports a certain candidate can forget the majority party’s support when they need help with their legislation.
You can rest assured that Democrat U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has put the word out to the political investor crowd that anyone backing North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis against North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan in the U.S. Senate race can forget his support.
However, with most of the major national pundits saying that the next U.S. Senate Majority Leader is more likely to be a Republican, Sen. Harry Reid’s intimidation is greatly weakened.
Further, you can count on likely Republican U.S. Senate leaders to put the word out that in 2015, the GOP majority leadership will remember only those who supported Thom Tillis in 2014.
Here is what the leading pundits are saying:
All political pollsters agree that the response of voters to the question, “If the election were held today, would you vote for the Republican or the Democrat for Congress?” … also known as the Generic Congressional Ballot question … is one of the best predictors of which party has an advantage during any given election year.
According to the new bipartisan-led national George Washington University Battleground Poll, the GOP has a 4-point lead on the Generic Congressional Ballot at the fall 2014 starting gate.
- GOP has a 16-point lead on the Generic Congressional Ballot in the states where there is a competitive U.S. Senate race (like North Carolina)
- Independent voters are trending GOP 41% to 26% Democratic; 33% undecided
- Republicans lead among Middle-Class voters by 11 points
- GOP has a 12-point lead among those “extremely likely to vote” (51% to 39%)
- 69% of Republicans are “extremely likely to vote;” 57% of Democrats
There has been a dramatic loss of political momentum among North Carolina Democrats since 2008, the election year when historic voter registration and turnout accomplishments led to Greensboro Democrat Kay Hagan’s win over Elizabeth Dole for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
From January 1, 2008 through August 30, 2008, North Carolina Democrats registered a net gain of 171,955 new voters. This year, from January 1, 2014 through August 23, 2014, Democrats have suffered a net loss of 4,122 voters.
In 2008, Democrats had all of the power in North Carolina; the Governor, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tem of the Senate. Today, all of those positions are filled by Republicans. Today, the North Carolina Democratic Party has been abandoned by most of its financial backers from the past. Party leaders are in disarray, struggling to regain their footing.
There is so little respect for the North Carolina Democratic Party that the Wake County Democratic Party Federal Campaign Committee has managed the $1,631,025 statewide turnout operation, with most of the money from the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Kay Hagan’s political fortunes are certain to be impacted negatively by the loss of standing and resources of the North Carolina Democratic Party. The loss of momentum and enthusiasm this year when compared to 2008 is undeniably devastating.
Unless they can regain their 2008 momentum, Thom Tillis will defeat Kay Hagan this fall.
The best hope for U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and all North Carolina Democrats 2014 is to pull off a surprise surge in turnout during the Early Voting period of October 23 – November 1. They are clearly on that track, and it’s all being run out of the Wake County Democratic Party.
Since March 2014, the Wake County Democratic Party Federal Campaign Committee has received $1,631,025, and has spent $1,563,534, almost all on “Office Rent” at 24 county headquarters around the state and “Salary” expenses for over 100 employees.
- Just in the month of July, the Wake County Democrats received $585,487
- Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee contributed $523,067of the July total
- DSCC has contributed $1,345,559 to Wake County Democrats since March
So what are Wake County Democrats doing with $1,631,025? You can get a good idea by taking a look at the July Disbursements, Wake County Democratic Party Federal Campaign Committee, which shows what was spent from July 1, 2014 through July 31, 2014.
A new NPR (National Public Radio) poll released June 19, 2014, shows Pres. Obama’s Job Approval at only 38% among likely voters in the 12 states with competitive Senate races (which includes North Carolina). Perhaps more indicative of who is likely to have a political advantage this Fall are the survey responses by Independent voters that relate to whom voters trust by issue:
- On the Economy, 48% of Independent voters trust Republicans; 28% trust Democrats
- On Healthcare, 44% of Independent voters trust Republicans; 35% trust Democrats
- On the Future of the Middle Class, Independent voters give both parties 38%
- On Foreign Policy, 52% of Independent voters trust Republicans; 26% trust Democrats
The poll was conducted by a bipartisan team that included Democrat Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps and Republican Whit Ayers of Resurgent Republic.
If President Obama’s job approval remains in the low to mid 40s this Fall, he will be a drag on all Democrats running for the U.S. Senate, including Kay Hagan.
A growing list of scandals, as well as ongoing domestic and foreign policy challenges, suggest that Obama’s Job Approval will not likely recover enough by Oct/Nov for him to be a positive force for Democrats.
The national Tea Party groups like Americans for Prosperity, Tea Party Nation and Freedom Works cannot claim victory in the downfall of Eric Cantor because they did not spend one penny backing his opponent, David Brat, a Randolph-Macon College economics professor.
Brat spent only $122,000 on ads arguing that Cantor had become liberal because of his support for a pathway to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants and because of his votes for budget deals. You don’t win on the issues with ads when you are outspent 26-to-1.
The Tea Party didn’t win this election. Eric Cantor lost the election.
This was not an anti-establishment anti-incumbent vote. Only one incumbent member of the U.S. House has lost this year: Ralph Hall, the oldest member of Congress at 91-years old.
This was an anti-Eric Cantor vote. An anti-Eric Cantor’s staff vote.
Oh, and he also lost because thought that he could win in 2014 like he always had; that he didn’t need to do anything different in 2014. That he could fight the last war.
Per AP Thurs, May 29, 2014: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has begun reserving “almost $44 million in advertising time” with television stations in 39 fall races.
North Carolina Implications: No North Carolina Congressional race is on the list of the 39 targets. That’s because there are no opportunities for Democrats to pick up a seat in North Carolina in 2014. Following the November elections, North Carolina will have 10 Republicans and 3 Democrats in the delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Per AP: “In all, the campaign committee plans to spend money in 19 districts to defend incumbent Democrats, mostly newcomers, and in 17 districts that are in Republican hands.”
Per AP: “That’s [$44 million] the largest ever from the committee and the biggest so far this election year from a party-run campaign committee.” By booking the time early, the DCCC locks in a lower price and a “discount of up to 35 percent.”
To date, no non-partisan observer has argued that Democrats can net 18 wins in 2014, the number needed to take the US House majority from Republicans (who have 233 seats to 199 seats held by Democrats). There are three vacancies.
Here are the 39 targeted races with cities highlighted:
North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson, one of the three Democrats on the “non-partisan” seven-member court, is likely to win her race this fall against Republican Eric Levinson, a Mecklenburg Superior Court judge, thereby earning a third term on the state’s highest court, all thanks to an ill-conceived primary TV ad accusing her of being soft on child molesters.
The Republican ad was ill-conceived for two reasons. One, voters who participate in midterm primary elections are older and wiser; wise to the wily ways of political TV ad consultants. For emphasis: They are the least likely voters to be duped. Two, the allegation that Justice Hudson is soft on child molesters is so far outside the boundaries of believability that it backfired.
On January 3, 2014, the John Davis Political Report raised the possibility of “waking up the morning after General Election Day 2014 with a Republican Governor, a Republican majority state Senate and House, a Republican majority state Supreme Court, a Republican majority Court of Appeals, a 10-3 Republican U.S. House delegation and two Republican U.S. Senators joining Republican majorities in both the U.S. Senate and House in Washington, DC.”
That “possibility” is now a probability. The difference? GOP unity and enthusiasm during a midterm election year when the party in the White House always loses most of the close races.
North Carolina Democrats really need social and economic Republican hardliners to divide and weaken the GOP in 2014. That’s because they, the Democrats, lack the wherewithal to win against a united Republican Party. Unfortunately, Republicans are not cooperating.
So why aren’t Republicans likely to divide and conquer each other in 2014? Because the social and economic hardliners are out of favor. The government shutdown in October 2013 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Republicans have now turned their attention away from ideological purity to winning legislative majorities, the U.S. House, and seizing the U.S. Senate.
If I had to choose only one bit of information for forecasting partisan fortunes in 2014, like the winner in the North Carolina U.S. Senate race, it would be the answer to the question: Is the new GOP Honeybadger just another Republican Orca, or is it a Democratic Narwhal?
Narwhal? Orca? Honeybadger?
Project Narwhal is Democratic President Obama’s 2012 $100 million “get out the vote” digital data-mining, voter contact and turnout tracking operation. Project Narwhal drove up the turnout of the most unlikely voters in 2012, like African Americans in Ohio and young people everywhere, giving Obama another four years in the White House.
Orca? Orca is Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 “get out the vote” app that was supposed to neutralize Obama’s Project Narwhal. Instead, Orca crashed. It turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. Never beta tested! In Boston, on Election Day, a Romney campaign aide told the Washington Times, “Somebody said Orca is lying on the beach with a harpoon in it.”
New Jersey and Virginia Signal Good Year for Incumbents
Virginia and New Jersey were the only two states in 2013 with gubernatorial and legislative elections. The political trends in those two states are almost always reliable predictors for North Carolina a year later. Read the predictive trends from those states for North Carolina in 2014.
Congressional and Legislative Races Will Not be Close
Read the big-picture forecasts for North Carolina in 2014 based on trends from 2013 and early indicators of likely advantages, like incumbency, fundraising and non-presidential election year turnout.
Tillis Likely GOP U.S. Senate Nominee with No Runoff
As to statewide races in New Jersey and Virginia, the overarching trend was the demand for leaders who placed a higher premium on getting things done over those who thought sticking to their beliefs was more important even if nothing gets done. In North Carolina’s U.S. Senate GOP primary race, that trend favors the election of Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, outright on May 6.
The safest place in America for Democrats is the District of Columbia, where 72% of the adults are Democratic/Lean Democratic and 14.3% are Republican/Lean Republican. The next best place in America for Democrats is New York, followed on the Top 10 Most Democratic states by Hawaii, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, Vermont, California, Illinois and Delaware.
The safest place in America for Republicans is Wyoming, where 60.1% of adults are Republican/Lean Republican and only 20% are Democratic/Lean Democratic. Joining Wyoming among the Top 10 Most Republican states are Utah, North Dakota, Idaho, Kansas, Alaska, South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana and Oklahoma.
Where is North Carolina ranked on the list of state party leanings?
- North Carolina is right square in the middle of Gallup’s list of state party leanings
- 41.3% of North Carolina adults are Democratic/Lean Democratic; 41.9% are Republican/Lean Republican
- North Carolina is nestled in the middle of the list between Wisconsin and Ohio on the Democratic side; Arizona and Virginia on the Republican side
- North Carolina is closer in partisan identity to Minnesota, Maine and Oregon than Tennessee, South Carolina and Alabama
Now you know why it’s so expensive to run for political office in North Carolina. Neither party has a partisan advantage.
If you take a look at the midterm elections during the second term of the last two presidents you will discover that they were not very favorable for North Carolina Republicans. Those two election years, 1998 and 2006, were years in which the GOP learned the hard way that you can’t win just by exploiting the misfortunes of Democrats. That strategic misjudgment could easily by repeated in 2014 if the GOP spends the year attacking Democrats on ObamaCare.
In 1998, the second term midterm elections of sex scandal-plagued Democratic President Bill Clinton, the state GOP suffered the loss of the majority in the North Carolina House of Representatives and lost Lauch Faircloth’s U.S. Senate seat to upstart John Edwards. At the federal level, Democrats actually gained five U.S. House seats and did not lose any Senate seats.
In 2006, Republicans lost the majority in the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, the majority of the governors and the majority of state legislatures in great part due to a scandal-plagued Republican Congress that broke all records for pork barrel spending.
Here in North Carolina, Republicans lost six-term U.S. Congressman Charles Taylor from Transylvania County, contributing to the Democratic takeover of the U.S. House.
At the state level, Republicans lost three out of four North Carolina Supreme Court races in 2006 (Democrats Sarah Parker, Patricia Timmons-Goodson and Robin Hudson won), and lost ground in both the state House and Senate despite the year-long scandal involving Speaker Black.
Important: Congressional Republicans humored the middle with liberal spending but lost their base voter. If you win the middle voters, but lose your base voter, you lose the war.
Then, on January 21, 2014, perhaps the biggest surprise of all January Republican surprises.
Glenn Beck, former Fox News commentator with a reputation for irrational diatribes and hateful commentary, said in an interview with Fox News host Megyn Kelly, “I made an awful lot of mistakes, and I wish I could go back and be more uniting in my language. Because I think I played a role unfortunately in helping tear the country apart. And it’s not who we are. I didn’t realize how really fragile the people were. I thought we were kind of a little more in it together.
And now I look back and I realize if we could have talked about the uniting principles a little more, instead of just the problems, I think I would look back on it a little more fondly.”
Oh my goodness. Glenn Beck admitting on Fox News that his uncivil commentary helped tear the country apart. Admitting that words can hurt your party’s brand among voters in the middle. A clear sign of shifting priorities among Republicans.
The GOP’s failure to take back the White House and U.S. Senate in 2012 sparked a year of bitter feuding. Establishment conservatives and Tea Party insurgents blamed each other for destroying yet another opportunity to right the nation’s ship. But, then came October 1, 2013; the day of the government shutdown. A fiasco that damaged Republicans so badly that it became the startup of corrective action for a GOP takeover of the U.S. Senate in 2014.
Granted, American voters blamed everyone associated with the shutdown, even dubbing the 113th Congress the “Worst Congress in History.” A Democrat-led Senate; Republican-led House. According to Gallup, only 5% of Democrats approved of the job Congress was doing in October 2013; only 13% of Independents and 15% of Republicans approved.
But most of all, voters blamed the Republican Party. Ten times more than the Democrats.
Of course, the great hope of Brannon/Harris/Flynn/Grant is to force a primary runoff by ganging up on Tillis with enough outside super PAC attack ads that keep his vote below 40%. However, the odds are greater that they will splinter the hard right conservatives and Tillis will parlay a sizable cash and organizational advantage into a primary victory on May 6, 2014.
Tillis’ legislative accomplishments are such that it will simply be too difficult for any Republican to get very far with an attempt to discredit his commitment to the conservative cause. In other words, even his on primary detractors will not likely stay divided against him for long. They want to defeat Hagan.
The Shutdown last December taught most Republicans two important lessons: one, bitter ideological divisions hurt them more than the Democrats; two, just saying no without an alternative proposal is not acceptable to most Americans as leadership.
Imagine waking up the morning after General Election Day 2014 with a Republican Governor, a Republican majority state Senate and House, a Republican majority state Supreme Court, a Republican majority Court of Appeals, a 10-3 Republican U.S. House delegation and two Republican U.S. Senators joining Republican majorities in both the U.S. Senate and House in Washington, DC.
If you are a member of the GOP, or if you prefer conservative solutions to problems, nothing could be finer. If you are a Democrat … ummmm, need I say more?
It could happen.
John Davis Political Report
Welcome to the John Davis Political Report
John Davis is a political analyst, writer and consultant who has followed North Carolina politics for 28 years. He is one of the state’s leading authorities on evaluating the strengths of candidates and predicting the outcome of political races. During the six election cycles since the beginning of this decade, Davis projected the winner in 1286 of 1399 North Carolina campaigns, for an accuracy rate of 96%.
“John Davis has one of the best political minds in North Carolina. He is practically a walking encyclopedia on legislative politics. I have long relied on his wisdom and insights in my own reporting. If you want to keep up with legislature, particularly now that the Republicans are in control, John Davis is the go-to-guy.” Rob Christensen, chief political reporter, The News and Observer and author of The Paradox of Tar Heel Politics
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John Davis’ 2014 Speech Title: North Carolina’s New Political Reality
Urban Voters … More Moderate than Conservative, More Pro-Government than Anti-Government, More Independent than Partisan, More Diverse and More Tolerant … Voters who Demand to be Recognized and Respected by those Elected to Manage the Most Important Problems List.
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“To meet Leadership North Carolina’s mission to inform, engage, and lead, top-notch speakers are essential. John’s presentation to the forty-four members of Leadership North Carolina Class XIX during our Government session was outstanding. Providing a baseline through the lens of the 2008 and 2010 elections helped our class understand the outlook for 2012. John’s always a hit and receives rave reviews!” Brian Etheridge, President, Leadership North Carolina, November 2011
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John Davis has made over 1,000 speeches in North Carolina and throughout the United States. He is known for his thoughtful analysis, his lively and humorous presentations, his candor and his accurate forecasts.
Sign up today for Davis’ 2013 speech titled, North Carolina’s New Political Reality. John discusses the dramatic shift in North Carolina’s center of political power to urban voters. Davis says they are, “More Moderate than Conservative, More Pro-Government than Anti-Government, More Independent than Partisan, More Diverse and More Tolerant … Voters who Demand to be Recognized and Respected by those Elected to Manage the Most Important Problems List.”
FEES: The fee for Triangle-based speeches is $500. The fee for all other state venues is $1,000 plus travel expenses. Out of state venues is $2,500 plus travel expenses.
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While North Carolina Republicans lead the state during the 2013-2014 session of the North Carolina General Assembly, Democrats will be plotting and scheming how to retake the majority. John Davis is the best unbiased source observing and reporting to you candidly on the political implications of every move made by both parties.
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