Under the Dome

Checking NC’s presidential pulse

Republican voters in North Carolina are, like elsewhere, favoring the nonpoliticians who are seeking the nomination for the presidency, according to a new poll by Elon University.

Elon surveyed Republican and Republican-leaning voters in North Carolina for their preferences among 16 candidates who were seeking the GOP nomination. The leaders were real estate tycoon and businessman Donald Trump (22 percent); retired surgeon Ben Carson (21 percent) and former businesswoman Carly Fiorina (10 percent).

Those were followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (7 percent); former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (7 percent); and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (6 percent).

The polling ended on the same day Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker bowed out. Walker polled at just 2 percent.

Over on the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is still the runaway leader, with 53 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters saying she has their support.

She was followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had 23 percent. Next was former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb with just 2 percent.

The Elon survey also polled for a series of head-to-head matchups, asking if the presidential election was between x and y, who would you vote for?

It produced some interesting – entertaining? – results.

To be sure, Dome takes polling at this stage of the campaign with the proper grain of salt.

But polling, after all, is determining who stands at the primetime podiums for debates, who sees upticks in monetary support, who has momentum.

North Carolina, of course, remains a top tier battleground state.

Here’s the head-to-head results among North Carolinians:

Trump vs. Clinton

Asked about an election contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Clinton was preferred.

Clinton: 47 percent

Trump: 40 percent

Neither/Other: 10 percent

Don’t know: 3 percent

Carson vs. Clinton

Asked about an election contest between Ben Carson and Hillary Clinton, Carson was preferred.

Carson: 52 percent

Clinton: 41 percent

Neither/Other: 3 percent

Don’t know: 4 percent

Bush vs. Clinton

Asked about an election contest between Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, Bush was preferred.

Bush: 46 percent

Clinton: 43 percent

Neither/Other: 7 percent

Don’t know: 4 percent

Jason Husser, assistant director of the Elon University Poll, said the poll shows candidates other than Trump “have grounds for success.”

Carson, who has made several visits to North Carolina in the past year, had stronger support among self-described independents than among other Clinton challengers.

In general, Democrats who were polled supported Clinton and Republicans supported the Republican candidate.

But independents broke stronger for Carson than they did for Bush or Trump in a head-to-head with Clinton.

Carson’s support among independents was 60 percent to 33 percent for Clinton. Support among independents for Bush was only 46 percent. For Trump, it was a bit less at 43 percent.

The poll was conducted Sept. 17 to Sept. 21 with a margin of error of 2.99 percentage points to 4.74 percentage points.

J. Andrew Curliss

Pushing to the end

Lawmakers are pushing to the end of a long legislative session, and many subject matters are still being debated. Some are expected to pass quickly in the week ahead. Others might get bogged down. Adjournment for a session that began in January is expected by midweek.

One option often used to resolve pending matters is to make an issue or idea a study.

That’s what appears to be happening with a controversial plan to allow for a “pilot” project that would have charter schools take over for low-performing district schools in North Carolina.

It won’t come up for a vote this year, state Rep. Rob Bryan said.

Bryan, a Mecklenburg Republican with a leadership role in education, said in August that he planned to introduce a bill that would force five of the state’s lowest-scoring schools to close or convert to independently run charter schools. But he said late last week that prolonged work on the budget squeezed out time to deal with the bill in the House education committee.

He said the plan now is to have a House select committee study the proposal and hold public meetings early in 2016, with a vote in next year’s short session. That would still allow some low-performing public schools to reopen as charters in 2017-18, he said.

The plan would create a state Achievement District, modeled on charter takeovers in New Orleans and Tennessee, and questions have been raised about the plan itself and the process.

Bryan said he would substitute his bill for another one introduced in February, circumventing a spring deadline for introducing new legislation and eliminating much of the public discussion that would have occurred had it been introduced earlier.

But Bryan maintains that the plan was reviewed and revised extensively by politicians and educators of both parties.

“It’s been way more vetted than most other bills we do,” he said. And he said he doubts that extending the public debate will eliminate the controversy.

“The reality is there’s going to be a lot of objections to it from people who just don’t want an achievement district,” he said. – Ann Doss Helms

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