Morning Memo: More election forecasters shift Senate race to ‘toss up’

Posted by John Frank on March 20, 2014 

Washington’s top pundits are shifting their view of the North Carolina U.S. Senate race.

The latest is the Cook Report, a nonpartisan political prognosticator who moved the contest from “lean Democratic” (as in favoring incumbent Kay Hagan) to straight “toss up” (meaning either party could win).

Here’s an excerpt from The Cook Report: “There are a couple of races that have been sitting in the Lean Democratic column because of Republican primaries that threaten to produce an unelectable candidate. While primaries remain a challenge for Republicans, the path to the GOP nomination for a number of the strongest Republican contenders is getting clearer, while the threat of another Richard Mourdock or Todd Akin has waned in a number of states.

“As such, Sens. Mark Begich in Alaska, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, and Kay Hagan in North Carolina are moving to the Toss Up column. In each of these races, polls show the races generally within the margin of error tied.” Read more here.

The reflection is not novel to those in North Carolina following the race. The polls have shown a tight contest for months. And the prospect of beating Hagan is driving the new urgency in the Republican primary.

*** Read below for a few more insights into the changing dynamic in Senate race – all in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will mark World Down Syndrome Day with a 6 p.m. lighting ceremony at the executive mansion in Raleigh.

The top legislative meeting in Raleigh on Thursday is a panel looking at Common Core standards. It meets at 10 a.m. in room 643 LOB. Other meetings: the committee looking at industry utility fees meets at 9:30 a.m. in room 544 LOB. The Committee on Cultural and Natural Resources meets at 1 p.m. in room 643 LOB.

BULLETIN – TV ads hit lawmakers: Read more here.

#NCSEN –

#McCONNELLING Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis: The Daily Show’s parody of Mitch McConnell’s campaign ads is coming to North Carolina. Both Hagan and Tillis have B-roll of campaign ads on their websites, so have fun overlaying music and more to create your own TV commercial. And the best ones will make the Morning Memo. Read more here.

CAMPAIGN MADNESS: Republicans are getting in the basketball mood with a new website. See it here.

DEEP DIVE: For insight into the Senate race, read this Dome post about Mark Harris’ campaign message testing. And don’t miss the reaction from Thom Tillis’ campaign. Read more here.

To drive home the urgency beginning in the Senate race, absentee ballots are now available. Read more here.

BRANNON GETS ANOTHER WET KISS FROM GLENN BECK: Greg Brannon appeared on Glenn Beck’s radio program Wednesday and the slobber fest continued where it left off the last time they got together.

In the interview, Brannon pushed back against criticism of a civil jury verdict that he misled investors in a tech company he helped start. From the interview: “At the end of the day I believe we’ll be vindicated,” Brannon said. “I’m on boards of pregnancy crisis centers, of companies, of school boards because of my integrity. I’ve been an OB-GYN in private practice for almost 22 years. My integrity built the practice of 25,000 patients, 9,000 deliveries. There is so much more detail coming out … when it all comes out, you’ll see exactly why I will never sell my integrity, not even for a Senate seat … I’ll talk about it all day.” Hear the full interview here.

PROVOCATIVE HEADLINE: From National Journal – “The tea party is over.” Read more here.

NOT ALL DEMS ARE HAPPY WITH DEMS LIKE HAGAN: From Politico magazine. Read more here.

#NCPOL –

HOW HOUSE REPUBLICANS WIN: From James Kotecki’s podcast interview with Josh Thomas, the political director for the House GOP caucus: “The narrative they’re trying to put forward that Republicans are anti-teacher – I think it does have an effect on what we’re trying to do. It’s not true in the slightest but I think it does have an effect on what message we’re trying to get across.” Listen here.

LEAD STORY IN WINSTON-SALEM: Feds knew of threat to river. From the Winston-Salem Journal – As federal officials convene a grand jury this week to investigate the Dan River coal ash spill, they might want to look in an unlikely spot before pointing fingers of blame.

The mirror. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency failed to seize an opportunity in September 2009 that might have prevented last month’s disaster near the retired Dan River Steam Station in Eden, the third-worst coal ash spill in United States history. Read more here.

SUNSHINE WEEK – CHARTER SCHOOL SALARY PRIVACY DISPUTED: North Carolina charter schools don’t have to disclose employee salaries like other public schools do, even though they receive hundreds of millions of dollars in public money, state education officials said this week.

But a lawyer for the General Assembly says charter schools are required to reveal what employees earn. In fact, they have less legal privacy than school districts, said special counsel Gerry Cohen.

“On its face all their personnel records would be public unless they show an applicable statute that says the record is not public,” said Cohen, who spent three decades in charge of drafting legislation. Lawyers for the N.C. Press Association and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools agree.

The debate comes as public investment in charter schools and the number of children relying on them is swelling. This year the state is spending $304.5 million for 127 charter schools that serve about 58,700 students, with counties required to kick in millions more. Twenty-six more charter schools will open in August. Read more here.

THE SHIFT IN CAMPAIGN ADVERTISING: From Slate’s John Dickerson – As I watched the big television screen broadcasting the focus group taking place in Charlotte, N.C., I was tempted to tweet about it. This is the modern instinct. I don’t just mean for reporters. Everyone seems to have a couple of screens open all the time. March Madness is about to begin, and Twitter will be stuffed full of contemporaneous commentary about the games being played. This was the topic of the focus group – the changing way we all use technology. ...

The Tuesday evening focus group was one of two held as a part of the Off the Grid National Survey, a poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Global Strategy Group to examine the way people consume information. Read more here.

CLAY AIKEN AT FORT BRAGG: From the Fayetteville Observer – Aiken was in Fayetteville on Wednesday, touring Fort Bragg before meeting a small group of military spouses at the Marquis Market on Person Street downtown. Dressed in a grey suit and open-necked shirt, he was laidback and easygoing.

The hourlong chat with spouses focused mostly on the efforts of military families to navigate their way through the health care system and to find work.

Aiken, whose brother completed two tours in Iraq with the Marines, asked questions, listened and pledged to be accessible if he’s elected. Read more here.

NEW SENATE COMMITTEE LEADERS: Senate leader Phil Berger announced changes to the leadership in several Senate committees.

On the appropriations and budget committee, Sens. Kathy Harrington, R-Gaston, and Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, were appointed as co-chairmen. They are joining retiring Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, and Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow. The four chairs will work together to craft the state budget, working together with the appropriations subcommittee chairs on specific budget areas, according to a spokesperson for Berger’s office.

Sen. Stan Bingham, R-Davidson, will co-chair the committee on agriculture, environment and natural resources and the natural and economic resources approprations subcommittee, joining Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Davie.

Sen. Shirley Randleman, R-Wilkes, has been appointed co-chairman of the justice and public safety appropriations subcommittee, joining retiring Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, and Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson.

Sen. Wesley Meredith, R-Cumberland, has been appointed co-chairman of the Department of Transportation appropriations subcommittee, joining Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick. Rabon was reappointed as cochairman of the transportation committee, joining Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke.

MORE INFO NEEDED ON DRIVER'S ED: North Carolina still doesn’t have solid information on how well school-based driver education classes prepare young motorists to operate a car or whether state funding for the programs is well spent, according to a report presented to legislators Wednesday.

The General Assembly's Program Evaluation Division examined how the Department of Public Instruction responded to a 2011 law requiring more central oversight of driver education. About 100,000 students annually take classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction at high schools to obtain a training certificate that’s a prerequisite to obtaining a learner's permit, according to DPI. Read more here.

QUICK HEADLINES –

State task force looks to curb childhood obesity. Read more here.

Data breach exposes 529 plan savers’ private information. Read more here.

Liz Hair, pioneer for women in Charlotte politics, dies. Read more here.

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