The horse race

Been immersed in the horse race coverage. As we start early voting in NC and get closer to Election Day, the speculating goes up to 11. The national pundit corps is starting to troll deeper into state media for clues.
So, the venerable Rob Christensen puts up a post on Under the Dome which says the Romney folks are confident about NC and are sending staff from NC to Ohio. And Politico is all “Boom! NC is over says the N&O.” Of course, their headline, Is NC Cooked?, include the all-important question mark, but it’s out there.
I’m not going to blame Rob, because he’s doing his job, although there is no indication that he knows for an absolute fact that the Romney folks are confident. They might just have decided that they can’t risk losing Ohio and are pouring resources into it, which seems to be the case from everything else I’ve read.
Also, i just the love term “site-leading report.”
The full story, which arrived this am in the N&O is a little more nuanced. The Romney folks are citing a widening lead in the polls. You’d think someone at the N&O would have this page bookmarked. Note that McCain led in the polls all the way up until the votes were counted. Mason-Dixon has McCain up by 3 points going into November.

Hagan says she supports public option

Sen. Kay Hagan joined fellow Dems on the HELP committee in supporting a public option in health care reform. TPM has the story here.
Jame Hamser of FireDogLake has been on this story from jump street.
Betsy at BlueNC is ready to make nice.
My feeling on this has been that progressives in this state worked very hard for Hagan and were more than a little peeved when she didn’t come out in support on a very key part of the reform. The CBO pretty much made it clear why it was key when it compared the numbers of a plan with and one without a public option. The public route was far superior, covers more people and is less costly.
Jane’s right in that activism certainly helped. I’m not convinced, though, that Hagan wasn’t just trying to be cautious and got caught flat-footed when it came time to declare support. The lesson, if any, is that there needs to be a little better flow of communication between the Senator and her communities of support – including progressives.
Health Care access and affordability has been the number one issue of concern for most Americans for the past several decades. I think this battle has been going on for so long that a lot of insiders – media and politicians and policy makers – are underestimating how powerful an issue it is to people. We want this fixed. Now. And for Real.

MoveOn ads on Health Care

Word via TPM that MoveOn is going to take on Sen. Kay Hagan over the public option. I spoke with some folks in the Senator’s office yesterday and they explained that she could support a public option but is unwilling to commit to doing so until she sees what the plan looks like.
This will likely unfold over the next couple of weeks. Until then, expect a good deal of heat and, perhaps, some light.
Here’s an example of the ads MoveOn has been running in its health care campaign. This one aimed at influencing Sen. Mary Landrieu.

PACing the legislature

This lovely reminder of how things work from Bob Hall and our friends at Democracy NC: (link to report)


A new analysis shows that three dozen of North Carolina’s biggest political action committees (PACs) donated $7 million to state candidates and political parties in the last election — and now many of the groups are scrambling to make sure their interests, including tax breaks worth at least $1 billion a year, are not harmed in the new budget being hammered out in Raleigh.

The list of top PACs includes groups of developers, attorneys, university patrons, doctors, auto dealers, state employees, teachers, and beer wholesalers, as well as executives with blue-chip firms like Progress Energy, Wachovia, Blue Cross, AT&T, and Nationwide Insurance.

The analysis by the watchdog group Democracy North Carolina shows that legislative winners in 2008 received 94 percent of the $5.7 million the big PACs donated to all legislative candidates. The PACs also gave $770,000 to gubernatorial and other statewide candidates, as well as $590,000 to political party committees, much of which gets funneled into legislative races.

On September 16, 2008 the NC Realtors Association PAC sent 106 legislative candidates a total of $169,500 in donations. The same day, the NC Telephone Cooperative’s PAC sent $66,800 to 75 legislators. The next day, the Blue Cross PAC sent $42,200 to 45 candidates and two weeks later, Bank of America’s PAC gave 84 legislative candidates $118,250. And on and on it went.

But now the budget crisis is forcing elected leaders to make hard choices that affect big donors and pit one powerful lobby against another.

Teachers are holding rallies against cuts in the education budget, and the NC Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association is running full-page ads against proposals to increase the tax on its products. Both groups have PACs that gave more than $100,000 in direct contributions in 2008, plus at least another $100,000 through affiliated groups and individuals. . . .

Hagan’s challenge

Editorial from this week’s paper:

About 16 years ago, the state of Florida passed health care reforms that promised at least a beginning for universal coverage offering both public and private options. Pushing through those reforms, which were touted at the time as a possible model for national reform, was Gov. Lawton Chiles.

Chiles grew up in agri-industrial Polk County, Fla., and he knew that those who toiled in the phosphate mines, orange groves and processing plants were not getting a fair shake in many ways, and in particular in access to quality health care.

As governor, he also was dealing with an aging population, exploding demand and soaring costs. Sound familiar? Like other states that passed similar changes, Chiles’ efforts in Florida were seen as a precursor to much more sweeping reform at the national level.

Fast forward to now, and we’re still waiting for that new-and-improved health care system. Meanwhile, the one we’re forced to live with is eating us alive.

The sticking point at this moment in history is the so-called public option. This debate is not new. It has lasted generations. Harry Truman first proposed a public option on his watch, but it wasn’t until Lyndon Johnson was able to pass Medicaid and Medicare over howling objections of “socialized medicine” that the promise started to become a reality.

As you may have noticed lately, the debate is hardly over, and if he were still around it might be interesting to hear from Walkin’ Lawton his thoughts on how his niece, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, is handling the issue.

Reports from our nation’s capital contend that Hagan is one of two Democratic senators on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (that’s right – HELP) blocking consideration of a public option in the latest health reform legislation. Blocking, as in the HELP committee’s Democratic leadership is so worried that Hagan will vote against the public option in committee that they’re reluctant to raise it and see it voted down.

The public option, as reported elsewhere on this page and in other media sources, is a check on the spiraling costs of the industry and a lower-cost option to help many of those now uninsured into a plan. In a replay of the battles from a generation ago, the scare tactics being employed warn that the latest attempt at health care reform is a government takeover of the industry and that rationing and scary, sterile waiting rooms with bureaucrats and ominous, foreboding music await us all.

Those tactics worked in the past and have prevented meaningful reform. Now, with 47 million Americans uninsured, costs spiraling out of sight and a broken, unequal system, the same old pitch is being heard. And that message is greased with millions in PAC cash.
To Hagan’s credit, she is not among the senators positively dripping in health care PAC money and reluctant to vote against the industry’s wishes as a result. That’s cold comfort though, as she does appear willing to vote with that industry and against the interests of the people who sent her to Washington.

Last year on the campaign trail, Hagan was unequivocal about the need for comprehensive change in our health care system. That helped win her the vote of 2,249,311 North Carolinians.

She was victorious in part because her views on health care appeared to differ dramatically from those of Sen. Elizabeth Dole. Now that real change is on the table, that difference is becoming harder to see. And daylight is growing more visible between Hagan and that son of the Florida heartland with whom she fondly claims kinship.

Money changes everything

Pretty detailed and serious analysis by Nate Silver on Health Care Pac contributions and its influence on Senators such as our dear friend Kay Hagan, who is now waffling on the public option in the health care reform package.
The cover story for Hagan and others is that they are trying to build bipartisan support. So out with the public option and in with “coops.” Well that’s not working either now is it?
Hagan needs to either come out and show some support for the public option or explain why she doesn’t. Because right now it sure looks like she is standing with drug companies and insurance companies in a country that is being eaten alive by health care costs.
The American People voted for Change, not the status quo wrapped in a neat new package. Remember?

Democracy NC on activism and the recent elections

Here’s the release from Bob Hall and the gang at Democracy NC on a study of activism in the recent elections:
(link to xls file here)
NC Counties Ranked for Voter Activism;
Both Major Parties Can Claim Victories

North Carolina’s record turnout in the 2008 election made it the state with the biggest increase in voter participation over 2004 and helped Barack Obama win a narrow victory, but a new analysis shows that five of the 10 NC counties with the most intense voter activism favored John McCain.

“The counties that experienced the highest turnout or the heaviest use of early voting did not uniformly line up to hand one candidate or one party a clear victory,” said Bob Hall, director of Democracy North Carolina, the nonpartisan election reform group that conducted the study. “They are the counties where voters of both parties, unaffiliated voters, blacks and whites, and new voters, all get involved. They illustrate why North Carolina will likely be a hotly contested state in 2010 and beyond.”

The county-by-county study examined new voter registration, voter turnout by party and race, early voting, and other factors to produce a “Voter Activism Index” for the 2008 election. The analysis is part of a 5,000-item database by Democracy North Carolina, available at:

The top 10 counties on the Voter Activism Index include five that supported Obama — Chatham, Wake, Forsyth, Orange and Durham — while five others favored McCain — Person, Moore, Davie, Transylvania, and, by a thin margin, Nash.

At the bottom of the scale are several counties that sided with Obama — Scotland, Hoke and in last place, Robeson — and several backing McCain — Cherokee, McDowell, Swain, Onslow and Avery.

Fast-growing Chatham County, with a history of contentious local elections, led on four of the indicators in the report: It ranked first for overall turnout of registered voters (with 78% casting a ballot), first for turnout among white voters, first for turnout among Democrats, and first for turnout among unaffiliated voters.

Wake County, Number 2 on the scale, scored in the top six for each of those four indicators and ranked 15th for the percent of new voters added in 2008. Three of four registered voters cast ballots, and an estimated 91% of adults are registered.

Person County, Number 3, had the highest turnout rate (80%) for registered black voters of any county with a significant African-American population, as well as the second highest turnout for Democrats, but it went for McCain by a 54% to 45% margin.

Meanwhile, in tri-racial, poor and disengaged Robeson County, more than half the voting-age adults sat out the election — one in four adults are not even registered and only 58% of those who are registered voters bothered to cast ballots.

Hall said Robeson is “the buckle for a belt of Southern counties with chronically low voter participation” that includes Columbus, Hoke, Scotland, Richmond, and Anson. Bladen broke from the pack this year with a large use of early voting (63% of all ballots) and a 76% rate of turnout among black registered voters.

The statewide totals highlight several significant features of the 2008 election, Hall noted.

● Democratic and Republican voters turned out at virtually identical rates, 72%, but unaffiliated voters lagged far behind, with only 62% casting a ballot.

● Turnout among black registered voters [72%] exceeded the white turnout rate [69%] for the first time since the beginning of the Jim Crow era more than 100 years ago.

● More than half of all 4,354,571 ballots were cast before Election Day — 56% through in-person voting at Early Voting centers and another 5% through mail-in absentee ballots. The 12 counties where the highest percent of ballots were cast during Early Voting split 6 for McCain, 6 for Obama.

● All 7 of the big urban counties, each with more than 170,000 voting-age adults, favored Obama and swayed the state toward the Democrats. Except for Wake and Forsyth, they did not have strong turnouts, but they accounted for 300,000 of the 650,000 net new voters added to the rolls in 2008. (Nearly one million new voters signed up in 2008, but after changes due to deaths, moves, etc., the net increase was 654,000.)

● While blacks make up 21% of the voting-age population, they were 36% of the 253,000 voters who cast ballots through the use of the new Same-Day Registration law, which allows a citizen to register (or update an old registration) and vote at the same time during the Early Voting period.

● Military and university counties posted the biggest percentage gains in registered voters.

The study uses data from the State Board of Elections and Census Bureau to rank counties on 10 indicators. The rankings produced a composite score that Democracy North Carolina used to give the counties a final rank for overall voter activism in 2008. The ten indicators, and the top five counties in each one, are:

1. Percent of registered voters casting a ballot: Chatham, Davie, Moore, Forsyth, Alleghany

2. Percent of voting-age population casting a ballot: Watauga, Orange, Martin, Polk, Durham

3. Percent of voting-age population registered: Watauga, Graham, Orange, Madison, Martin

4. Percent of net gain in voter registration during 2008: Pitt, Durham, Cumberland, Orange, Hoke

5. Percent of registered whites who voted: Chatham, Davie, Greene, Moore, Wake

6. Percent of registered blacks who voted: Alleghany, Person, Davie, Lee, Granville

7. Percent of Democrats who voted: Chatham, Person, Wake, Lee, Greene

8. Percent of Republicans who voted: Davie, Moore, Alleghany, Yadkin, Forsyth

9. Percent of Unaffiliated who voted: Chatham, Wake, Moore, Transylvania, Davie

10. Percent of ballots cast using in-person Early Voting: Durham, Lee, Pender, Pasquotank, Orange

A county’s ranking on the first two indicators were double counted and added to rankings on the other eight to produce a composite score and overall voter participation ranking for each county. (Not all the rankings in the group’s database are included in the score, just the 10 named above.)