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May 3, 2011, 3:18 p.m.

‘02 can­did­ate/Sec/State Elaine Mar­shall (D) and Sen. Richard Burr (R) “offered com­pet­ing vis­ions” in a 10/11 de­bate” (AP, 10/11). Mar­shall and Burr “sharply” dis­agreed “on the new health care law, on drilling off the state’s coast and on which party was re­spons­ible for the na­tion­al debt.”

Want More On This Race? Check out the Hot­line Dash­board for a com­pre­hens­ive run­down of this race, in­clud­ing stor­ies, polls, ads, FEC num­bers, and more!

Mar­shall “most of­ten played the role of the ag­gressor, por­tray­ing” Burr “as a polit­ic­al in­sider” and “at­tempt­ing to tie him to pub­lic dis­con­tent” with Wash­ing­ton. Mar­shall: “Wash­ing­ton is not re­spond­ing to the needs of or­din­ary Amer­ic­ans. Sen­at­or Burr has been in Wash­ing­ton for 16 years and is part of that club.”

Burr: “If you be­lieve our gov­ern­ment has to be downs­ized and we need to fig­ure out how to get more bang for our buck, then I’m ask­ing for your sup­port” (Christensen, Raleigh News & Ob­serv­er, 10/12).

Burr “blamed un­pre­dict­able taxes and reg­u­la­tion for stunt­ing the na­tion’s nas­cent eco­nom­ic re­cov­ery.”

Burr: “Let’s make tax rates and reg­u­la­tion pre­dict­able. Let’s give private cap­it­al a reas­on to come in­to the mar­ket­place and ex­pand busi­ness and to cre­ate jobs.”

Mar­shall “laid out a dif­fer­ent vis­ion, sug­gest­ing the na­tion should be of­fer­ing tax cred­its for cre­at­ing jobs.” Mar­shall: “We’ve got to help small busi­nesses. We’ve got to help provide the cred­it they need so that they can cre­ate the jobs that we need” (Baker, AP, 10/12).

Both “re­frained from of­fer­ing many spe­cif­ics in” the “hour long de­bate that touched on a broad range of sub­jects” (Win­ston-Salem Journ­al, 10/12).

Early Bird Gets The Votes

Early vot­ing “has altered the dy­nam­ics of polit­ic­al cam­paign” as they’ve “gone from gear­ing up for vot­ing day” to gear­ing up for “vot­ing sea­son.” In ‘08, Dems en­joyed an ad­vant­age in early vot­ing, but “that prob­ably re­flects” bet­ter Dem or­gan­iz­a­tion rather than “an in­her­ent par­tis­an tilt to early vot­ing it­self.” In NC, early vot­ing is set to be­gin in ‘10 on 10/14.

Ohio State prof. Daniel Tokaji: “It’s ab­so­lutely changed things and it’s go­ing to change things in the fu­ture. It has to change the way cam­paigns are run. Cam­paigns are go­ing to have to tar­get voters earli­er than they did in the past.”

NC Dem chair An­drew Whalen: “Once early vot­ing starts, I think we’re go­ing to see more Demo­crats come out and mo­mentum build right through to Elec­tion Day” (Mor­rill, Char­lotte Ob­serv­er, 10/12).

Not Down, Not Out

Mar­shall “trails Burr by more than 10 per­cent­age points in re­cent polls” but “told sup­port­ers that the race can still be win.” Mar­shall: “It is a win­nable race. I don’t spend a lot of time wor­ry­ing about polls. … This race is about jobs. It’s about people, and it’s about jobs. That’s where we’re go­ing to win” (Fay­ettes­ville Ob­serv­er Times, 10/12).

Proxy Vote

Burr “likes to stay away from the hot but­ton so­cial is­sues” so “when he traveled to Green­ville over the week­end,” it was “up to” Rep. Wal­ter Jones (R-03) who is “a fa­vor­ite of so­cial con­ser­vat­ives” to “re­mind voters that Burr op­poses abor­tion and op­poses same-sex mar­riage.”

Jones: “(Burr) be­lieves as you be­lieve, and I be­lieve that mar­riage is between a man and a wo­man. … He shares my be­lief that a child is a gift from God and that ought to be part of the de­bate — pro­tect­ing God’s gift to wo­men” (Christensen, “Un­der The Dome,” Raleigh News & Ob­serv­er, 10/11).

What hap­pens in an elec­tion when two can­did­ates who are un­elect­able run against each oth­er in the fall? We are about to test that pro­pos­i­tion.

The Flor­ida primary is now in the re­cord books, and Mitt Rom­ney walked away with a big win, money in the bank, and a good deal of mo­mentum. He is now the true front-run­ner in the race for the Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­a­tion, and by the sound of his speech after he won Flor­ida (and in homage to the Face­book ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing), he looked like he was launch­ing his gen­er­al-elec­tion IPO. So, with the un­der­stand­ing that the Re­pub­lic­an primary cam­paign could still take a few twists and turns, let’s look for­ward to the gen­er­al elec­tion.

After a bruis­ing neg­at­ive cam­paign that be­came con­sid­er­ably bit­ter and per­son­al, Rom­ney is now down to his low­est fa­vor­ab­il­ity rat­ing ever among the key vot­ing group of in­de­pend­ents. In the latest ABC News/Wash­ing­ton Post polling, 51 per­cent of in­de­pend­ents rate Rom­ney un­fa­vor­ably and only 23 per­cent view him fa­vor­ably—a whop­ping net-neg­at­ive rat­ing of 28 per­cent­age points. A can­did­ate in this ter­rit­ory can’t win in a nor­mal gen­er­al elec­tion.

Pres­id­ent Obama also faces bleak pro­spects. His ap­prov­al rat­ing (which his­tory shows is a pretty good in­dic­at­or of the vote he would draw on Elec­tion Day) is 42 per­cent among in­de­pend­ent voters. That is a num­ber that wouldn’t win a pres­id­ent reelec­tion in nor­mal times. Add to that low con­sumer-con­fid­ence num­bers, high un­em­ploy­ment, and the large per­cent­age of people who say that the coun­try is headed in the wrong dir­ec­tion, and you wouldn’t put much money on the in­cum­bent.

But someone has to win, and in the spring of 1992, a sim­il­ar situ­ation de­veloped. Bill Clin­ton emerged battered and bruised from the Demo­crat­ic primary race with a large num­ber of voters view­ing him un­fa­vor­ably, and the in­cum­bent pres­id­ent was un­elect­able when you looked at his job-ap­prov­al num­bers. So Ross Perot ap­peared and ac­tu­ally led some na­tion­al polls un­til he showed he wasn’t ready for prime time. Clin­ton uni­fied his party at the Demo­crat­ic con­ven­tion in New York City, and then nev­er trailed.

In a race between two the­or­et­ic­ally un­elect­able can­did­ates, any­thing is pos­sible. Could a third-party can­did­ate emerge? Yes. Could Rom­ney uni­fy the Re­pub­lic­ans? Very pos­sible. Could Obama get a lift from an im­prov­ing eco­nomy? Sure.

We won’t know any of those an­swers for quite a while, but it is sure go­ing to be fun to watch this con­test un­fold.

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