Is the NC Democratic Party Better Off than Four Years Ago? That’s why Obama can’t carry the state in 2012. The North Carolina Democratic Party, the storied, national-model political war machine of 2008, is too deficient structurally to win 2012 battles. Tuesday, September 4, 2012 Vol. V, No. 27 5:13 pm First Generation of Leaders
Is the NC Democratic Party Better Off than Four Years Ago? That’s why Obama can’t carry the state in 2012.
The North Carolina Democratic Party, the storied, national-model political war machine of 2008, is too deficient structurally to win 2012 battles.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012 Vol. V, No. 27 5:13 pm
First Generation of Leaders to Lose Legislature to Republicans Since 1898
The North Carolina Democratic Party, a storied national model political war machine with a 112-year winning streak in political dominance; a party that distinguishes itself, along with Oregon and Washington, as one of only three states with no Republican governor in 20 years, finds its political war machine unable to fend off an insurgent state GOP in 2012.
Collapsed. No power. No money. No momentum. No maps. Lost it all in 2010. Lost the state Senate. Lost the state House of Representatives. First time since 1898.
No political warfare generals. The collapse of the strong leadership infrastructure and financial advantage of the state Democratic Party since 2008, and the concurrent building of a strong leadership infrastructure and financial advantage by the state Republican Party, argue for a difficult year for Democrats in North Carolina in 2012. Including President Obama.
Governor Beverly Perdue, a lame duck whose disapproval rating per Public Policy Polling was “the worst any Governor in the country has in our most recent polling,” chose wisely not to seek a second term. Dramatic shift in political fortunes since 2008. Governor Perdue had eleven (11) vetoes overridden by the first GOP General Assembly since 1898. A lame duck.
In 2008, Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue barely won the closest governor’s race in America despite outspending her GOP opponent, former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, by 2-to1: $14.9 million to $6.7 million.
And, she barely won during a terrible turnout year for Republicans and an Obama-driven historic turnout year for Democrats. McCrory would have won in 2008 but for Barack Obama’s investment in North Carolina and a structurally deficient North Carolina GOP.
In July, 2012, Pat McCrory, the GOP nominee for governor, reported $4.4 million cash on hand. Walter Dalton, the Democratic nominee for governor, reported $714,000 cash on hand. McCrory has already reserved over $6 million in TV time for the fall. Dalton: $2.6 million.
The Republican Governor’s Association has committed an additional $5.2 million.
The North Carolina Democratic Party is not better off than it was four years ago when Barack Obama won by 14,000 votes out of 4.3 million cast.
That’s why President Obama cannot carry the state in 2012.
Structural Deficiencies Since 2008 Seen in Mid-Year Fundraising Reports
There is no greater indicator of structural deficiencies than fundraising results. According to The Associated Press, “The North Carolina Democratic Party, which has staggered through months of infighting in the wake of sexual harassment allegations at party headquarters, is well behind in the race for money with Republicans heading into the fall election.”
The AP story on the mid-year reports filed with the State Board of Election included:
NC Democratic Party has raised “a little less than $185,000” during the second quarter of 2012, and had “$188,000 in cash on hand.”
- NC Republican Party has raised “nearly $772,000” during the second quarter of 2012, and had “$965,500 in cash.”
- When it comes to individual contributors, “The reports show Republicans raked in $212,000, while Democrats brought in a meager $2,700, the reports said.”
Sen. Basnight reported $1,086,815 cash in 2008; Sen. Nesbitt reported $45,000 cash in 2012
Four years ago, when the July report was filed with the State Board of Elections, then-Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, D-Dare, reported $1,086,815 cash on hand. This July, NC Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, reported $45,000 cash on hand.
Money flows to those with power. Democrats no longer have power. No power, no money. No money, no resources to do political battle. That’s a game changing structural deficiency.
Conversely, NC Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, reported $770,000 cash on hand in the July campaign finance reports. Four years ago, then-Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger reported only $92,404 cash on hand.
NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, reported raising $945,942 this election cycle, with $491,877 cash on hand after a $200,000 contribution to the state party. Four years ago, then-GOP House Minority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, reported a meager $43,312 cash on hand.
North Carolina No Longer a Presidential Swing State; Obama Likely to Pull Out
Forecast: North Carolina will soon be taken off most “Swing States” lists and relabeled “Leaning Romney.” Obama will redirect NC resources to greener pastures.
The big mistake the Obama camp made this year in investing in North Carolina was in thinking that Obama carried the state in 2008 because he was a Democrat or because he was progressive or because he was charismatic. Fact: Obama was the only other option on the ballot at a time when voters had lost trust in the Republican leaders and their ideas.
Obama won by 14,179 votes out of 4,310,623 cast in 2008.
- Obama won because President Bush had a job approval of 25%.
- Obama won because McCain was feared as a third Bush term.
- Obama won because the GOP took the state for granted.
- Obama won because he had the surprise factor (no one saw it coming).
- Obama won because he beat the GOP with registration and early voting turnout.
Public opinion research released this week shows Mitt Romney leading President Obama in North Carolina 47% to 43% in a new Elon University/News & Observer poll, and 46% to 43% in a new High Point University/Fox 8 poll.
Greatest Structural Deficiency: Waning Democratic Enthusiasm; 38 Point Shift
According to a Gallup poll released July 25, only 39% of Democrats are “more enthusiastic about voting than usual,” compared to 51% of Republicans. That’s a 12-point advantage for the Republicans. There’s more.
At the same time in the summer of 2008, 61% of Democrats were “more enthusiastic about voting than usual,” compared to only 35% for Republicans. That’s a 26-point advantage for the Democrats.
For emphasis: Democrats have not only lost their 26-point advantage, Republicans have gained a 12-point advantage, for a net gain of 38 points for Republicans since the summer of 2008.
Least enthusiastic: young unemployed/underemployed voters. Obama volunteers.
The North Carolina Democratic Party was already in freefall without the help of President Obama. With the help of Obama in 2010, Democrats suffered the greatest losses since 1896.
Is the North Carolina Democratic Party better off than it was four years ago?
That’s why President Obama cannot carry the state in 2012.
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Post: December 7, 2010 Volume III, No. 2 “I can’t control my caucus anymore.” NC Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, Sited in John Davis Political Report, Volume II, No. 8, December 10, 2009 NOTE: For those of you who are not subscribers, please subscribe today at $485 for the Premium Annual Subscription by clicking
Post: December 7, 2010 Volume III, No. 2
“I can’t control my caucus anymore.” NC Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, Sited in John Davis Political Report, Volume II, No. 8, December 10, 2009
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A Political Wave Does Not a Majority Make
Many assert that the Republican “Wave” of 2010 was the reason that North Carolina Republicans won the majority in both chambers of the General Assembly on November 2, a first since 1898. Well, if all it takes is a GOP “Wave,” then why haven’t Republicans won the majority in the North Carolina General Assembly more often than the one time in 1994 … during a stretch of 112 years? Why is it that only two other states, Oregon and Washington, have an undefeated run of Democratic governors as long as North Carolina?
Sorry, a wave does not a majority make.
The Republican “wave” that swept the U.S. this fall presented a wonderful opportunity for Republicans to achieve historic gains in North Carolina … but nothing more than a wonderful opportunity. Democrats have always been able to beat back the national Republican wave election years because of money, savvy and unity … aided by underfunded Republican candidates and Republican Party disunity.
In 2010, the Republican and Democratic caucus strengths were reversed. It was the Democrats who began to self destruct. Republicans seized that opportunity by doing everything right while the Democrats were doing the most important things wrong.
The potential for Republicans to hold the majority long term has nothing to do with “wave” elections, it is great because they have gotten very good at winning campaigns.
Divided Democratic Leadership Led by Inexperienced War Generals
The NC Senate Democratic Caucus started down the road to defeat on November 17, 2009, a year before the 2010 elections. That was the day Sen. Martin Nesbitt (D-Buncombe) was elected Majority Leader following the abrupt resignation of long-time Majority Leader and Rules Chairman Sen. Tony Rand (D-Cumberland).
Rand was a great war general; Nesbitt was not.
The historic era of unparalleled power of Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight came to an end that day. Basnight began to tell his friends, “I can’t control my caucus anymore.” A new era of Senate leadership began, an era led by seasoned urban lawyers with unquestionable public policy credentials … but not political combat credentials.
Marc Basnight and Tony Rand were unquestionably two of the most powerful legislative leaders in state history … powerful because they knew how to win campaigns even during GOP wave years. However, they wielded their power with such ruthless efficiency that over time they made lots of enemies … including in their own caucus. The little known fact outside the Raleigh beltline is that Basnight and Rand were slowly becoming a minority in their majority caucus.
Basnight and his inner circle were business owners. Their fatal flaw was the failure to see the value in maintaining a base of philosophical allies in their caucus by recruiting and helping elect other Democratic business owners.
And so, imperceptibly over time, a liberal coalition of Senate Democrats grew in number and coalesced to create its own force, a mutinous force that became stronger than that of the leaders Basnight and Rand.
Thus, the fall of the Basnight/Rand Empire … and with it, a divided caucus led by inexperienced political war generals. They were doomed a year ago.
United Republican Leadership Led by Seasoned War Generals Who Can Raise Money
By 2008, Senate Republicans and their political team under the leadership of Phil Berger from Eden had become seasoned political combat veterans. They had become so good that they would have won a majority of seats in the North Carolina Senate, during one of the worst years for Republicans in modern political history, if it were not for the unity, savvy and especially the fundraising prowess of the Basnight/Rand political machine.
Senate Democrats were forced to spend an average of $500,000 per competitive race just to fend off Republicans who spent a third of that. That’s how effective Republican leaders, their political staff and their consultants had become at winning campaigns. They were a serious political threat even during a Democratic “Wave” … long before the GOP wave came along.
Among House Republicans, a strong political war general was needed. In 2010, that leader emerged in the name of Thom Tillis, a two-term member of the House from Huntersville. Tillis joined Skip Stam from Apex in what has become a powerful force with a working relationship that has the long-term potential equal to that of Basnight and Rand. They are competent, intelligent, politically savvy, and committed to the state … with a priority of restoring the state’s economic vitality. Oh, and they can raise money!
“We went in united, we came out united.”
Most importantly, Stam and Tillis are united.
I asked a House member to tell me about the Republican House Caucus meeting held a couple of weeks ago during which Skip Stam and Thom Tillis vied against each other for the position of Speaker. That member said, “We went in united, we came out united … thanks to the way Skip Stam and Thom Tillis conducted themselves.” That speaks well for long-term majority status for Republicans in the North Carolina House.
And speaking of the importance of unity and political warfare experience, the role played by NC GOP Party Chair Tom Fetzer in 2009 and 2010 cannot be overstated. A party with a history of being divided, conservative versus moderates, came together under the leadership of Fetzer. Fetzer not only brought unity to the GOP this election cycle, he brought political savvy and fundraising skills from his years as Mayor of Raleigh and as a political consultant.
Fetzer’s rallying theme for the 2010 elections: “One Team, One Goal, Victory.” Unity, savvy and successful fundraising is why Republicans won in 2010. Otherwise, 2010 would have been just another Republican “wave” year written off as a just another missed opportunity.
Don’t Dismiss the Significance of the GOP Commitment
To suggest that “the wave” alone would have carried the GOP into power in 2010 not only flies in the face of NC history, it dismisses the significance of the GOP commitment.
- It dismisses the significance of a leave-it-all-on-the-battlefield 18-month commitment of time and energy by an atypically savvy and united group of NC Republican party leaders and their exceptional staff;
- It dismisses the significance of an atypically savvy and united Senate and House Republican caucus leadership team and their exceptional political staff;
- It dismisses the definitive value of the thousands of volunteers who manned the phone banks for months making 2 million calls so they would not be beat this year in the early voting turnout;
- It dismisses the extraordinary class of candidates who neglected their families and risked their personal resources while working the campaign trail to exhaustion day after week after month after month … nights and weekends;
- It dismisses the significance of thousands of new contributors to Republican candidates and the hard work of those who took the time to work the phones raising the money;
- It dismisses the significance of new independent expenditure groups that followed the 2008 labor union play book with a partisan investment of millions;
- It dismisses the significance of the fact that through mid-October, Republican fundraising was UP twice as much as in 2008 while Democrats were DOWN $2 million;
- It dismisses the significance of the Tea Partiers and all of those rallies held all over the state … rallies organized by organizations like Americans for Prosperity and Civitas … rallies that would not have happened if it were not for committed and hard-working staff;
- It dismisses the significance of the value of 60 polls made public by organizations like Civitas, Carolina Strategy Group and Public Policy Polling … and groups like the NC FreeEnterprise Foundation who compiled political research for easy access;
- It dismisses the significance of the value of organizations like the John Locke Foundation that was a constant source of misery for Gov. Perdue and the Democratic establishment, keeping them tripped up with their effective investigative reporting and in-your-face news releases;
- It dismisses the significance of the constant drum beat of conservative thought pushed into the public conscience by talk radio, Fox News and a gazillion conservative publications and web sites.
Republicans in other states may have inadvertently won the power because of the national wave. Here in North Carolina, the “wave” was nothing more than an opportunity.
Republicans seized that opportunity by doing everything right while the Democrats were doing the most important things wrong. The potential for Republicans to hold the majority long term has nothing to do with “wave” elections, it is great because they have gotten very good at winning campaigns.
Well, there you have it, the John Davis Political Report for Tuesday, December 7, 2010.
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“Governments at every level had become too cavalier about spending taxpayer money. Too often, bureaucracies were oblivious to the cost of their mandates. A lot of liberal rhetoric did seem to value rights and entitlements over duties and responsibilities.”1 — U.S. Senator Barack Obama, 2006 Hu-bris (hyoo’bris) n. Overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance. In his
“Governments at every level had become too cavalier about spending taxpayer money. Too often, bureaucracies were oblivious to the cost of their mandates. A lot of liberal rhetoric did seem to value rights and entitlements over duties and responsibilities.”1 — U.S. Senator Barack Obama, 2006
Hu-bris (hyoo’bris) n. Overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance.
In his book, The Audacity to Win, President Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe writes about Obama’s “significant self-confidence.” What Plouffe calls significant self-confidence is also hubris, excessive pride or arrogance; the trait most responsible for Obama’s failed first year.
The year was 2003. Plouffe was meeting with Obama in Chicago for the first time to talk about his 2004 race for U.S. Senate. He was trying to persuade Obama of the importance of allowing campaign professionals to run the campaign. “You just have to let go and trust,” Plouffe told him. “I understand that intellectually,” said Obama, “but this is my life and career. And I think I could probably do every job on the campaign better than the people I’ll hire to do it.”2
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