Snow day catch-up: What's going on in races for Senate, governor, president

Posted January 22, 2016

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks as  from left, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Scott Walker listen during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

— The slushy mixed bag of precipitation that wandered into Raleigh Friday morning was enough to be a hazard on the roads and shut down schools and businesses, even though it failed to bring enough snow for your @NCCapitol team to build a decent snowman.

In that way, it's reminiscent of a week in politics that has offered up a hodgepodge of political news, which between long-term assignments and weather coverage has piled up in a mixed mess of sticky notes, scraps of yellow-lined paper and printed emails on our desks.

In the spirit of shoveling our virtual driveway, here's what's been going on this week in some of the highest-profile races on the March 15 ballot primary ballot.

Trump stumps in RaleighTRUMP GRUMP: The National Review, a venerable conservative journal, put out a special issue Thursday night decrying the candidacy of Donald Trump and featuring the arguments of conservative commentators as to why Republicans should back just about anybody else in the race. Among the barbs the National Review slung in its editorial were:

"Indeed, Trump’s politics are those of an averagely well-informed businessman: Washington is full of problems; I am a problem-solver; let me at them. But if you have no familiarity with the relevant details and the levers of power, and no clear principles to guide you, you will, like most tenderfeet, get rolled. Especially if you are, at least by all outward indications, the most poll-obsessed politician in all of American history."

Trump responded in his preferred medium, Twitter:

The National Review had been slated to co-host a debate with NBC News in late February. The Republican Party has pulled that invitation.

On the Record: Sen. Richard BurrBURR AND CRUZ: In presidential race news closer to home, an Associated Press story on how unpopular U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is with his fellow lawmakers featured a purported paraphrase from U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina.

"Still, Cruz has become such a pariah that one of his colleagues, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, told supporters at a campaign fundraiser for his own re-election that he would vote for liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders for president before Cruz, according to one person who attended the event," the AP story read. "Burr did not appear to be joking, said the person, who demanded anonymity to discuss the private gathering."

Burr has demanded a retraction, saying that he would support whoever the eventual Republican nominee turns out to be. That did not stop his most credible primary opponent to jump on the apparent party disloyalty in an appeal to conservative voters.

"It wouldn't surprise me one bit if he said it and meant it" said Greg Brannon, a Cary obstetrician who is running against Burr and who lost the 2014 Republican primary to now-U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis.

"Richard Burr has long been one of the House of Cards Republicans in Washington," Brannon continued, "going along with the liberal and socialist programs and policies put forth by Democrats. Of course, he would prefer an avowed Socialist to a man like Ted Cruz who has stood up to the Washington Establishment."

Taking a page from Trump's playbook, Burr took to Twitter to beat back the report.

Deborah RossDEMS AND THE SENATE: Meanwhile, among those running for the Democratic nomination to be U.S. senator, former state Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, drew two important endorsements this week.

"Deborah Ross was a champion for working people during her 10 years in the state legislature," the AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education wrote in its endorsement.

Union endorsement is important not only because big labor is a key Democratic constituency, but also because union backing typically comes with financial backing and the backing in a campaign's ground game.

"North Carolina deserves a U.S. Senator who will fight to grow the middle class," began the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's somewhat unusual endorsement on Thursday.

Generally, party organs like the DSCC stay officially neutral in primary fights, even if they play a role in recruiting candidates and have, in years past, certainly appeared to have favorites.

Along with the official nod last week from Emily's List, a group dedicated to elected pro-choice Democratic women, Ross's campaign has gobbled up outward shows of support that should give her "front-runner" status. So, of course, Republican and Democratic opponents alike portrayed it as a disastrous week for the former lawmaker.

The other Democrats in the race are Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey, Durham businessman Kevin Griffin and Ernest Reeves of Greenville.

Griffin campaign manager Jeff Worcester issued a statement saying it was "unfortunate" that the DSCC had "chosen to undermine the will of North Carolina Democratic Primary voters and make an endorsement in this race for the U.S. Senate."

Rey took to Twitter to push back against the "establishment" backing of Ross and, apparently, align himself presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

The GOP also added on its own criticism.

"As Ross cozies up to the Washington establishment, it’s worth noting that Ross has already been deemed, 'the most liberal NC Democratic nominee in history,'" blared a news release from the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Gov. Pat McCroryPOLL POSITIONS: This week's winter weather gave Gov. Pat McCrory an excuse to bust out his disaster casual wardrobe while, in the gubernatorial race, much of the chatter from the week appeared to be about polls.

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm, {{a href="external_link-15261440"}}put out a release this week giving Attorney General Roy Cooper, a potential Democratic opponent, a 3 percentage point edge on McCrory, 43 percent to 40 percent of those surveyed. Because of the margins of error involved in polling research, that's a statistical tie.

"Cooper has the advantage this month thanks largely to a 40/32 edge with independents," the firm reported.

The same day, McCrory's own campaign put out a poll memo purporting to report internal numbers showing him with a 51 percent approval rating and much better name recognition than Cooper. The campaign did not report what results a McCrory-Cooper matchup would look like or other data needed to independently vet the poll results.

McCrory campaign manager Russell Peck said in a fundraising email that the polling shows the governor was in "a strong position for re-election as we enter the 2016 campaign," but he warned the numbers will change as the campaign gets going and negative ads begin.

Cooper announces bid for governor's raceLABORING: Like Ross, Cooper picked up an endorsement from the AFL-CIO this week.

"Roy Cooper has been a long-time friend and advocate for working people and consumers in his service as Attorney General and as a state lawmaker before that, standing up to corporate bullies and their bought politicians in court and on the campaign trail," the union group said in its release.

McCrory's campaign derided the union backing, saying that unions have been trying to "obstruct (McCrory's) efforts to rebuild North Carolina since day one. But now that they have formally endorsed him, Roy Cooper completely owns their radical, pro-union Moral Monday agenda, which seeks to end the state's right-to-work laws, increase the size of the state budget by 50% and increase taxes on each family."


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