I'm speaking for myself and myself alone

These are random thoughts from last night that aren't in any order. They're mine alone, they're free-writing, and they are not the views of any party, PAC, or group.

  • Elaine won by 9 points, which is impressive. I'm surprised that everyone else is surprised that candidates 3-6 got 37% of the vote - in 2008, candidates 3-5 got about 25% of the vote, and that year there was a heavily female electorate that saw many more NC-Sen ads - all for one candidate. Kay got about the same as Marshall and Cunningham combined.

  • Marcus Williams is really good at winning Robeson County. This ain't the first time. State Senate 2012?

  • The map of counties Cal won looks a lot like the Triad Media Market. Seems pretty clear where his money went. Also, Elaine was 3rd in Forsyth County.

  • Ken doubled down in places like Mecklenburg and it made a difference, but not enough. I think he repeated the mistake of the Neal campaign - radio ads are cheap, but they don't do anything. I would have run cable during the Daily Show and Olbermann.

  • Elaine cleaned up Down East. Of all the counties that contain or are east of I-95, Elaine won all but four. Down East is hard to cover, and some support there is really important for the General.

  • I think Elaine without a runoff is the strongest possible candidate, because she could get a head start on institutional support and consolidating the advantages she needs to win in November. But I think that Cal may be the strongest of the two after a runoff.

  • I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere, but Marcus, Ken, Susan, and Elaine outperformed their poll numbers. Cal was barely outside the margin of error. This may say something about the choices undecided voters make when they reach the ballot box. I don't know how to interpret this result.

  • Speaking of undecided, the logical explanation behind the inflated Harris and Worthy polling - remember, Harris was (almost?) never on the campaign trail - is identity politics. That's why they break for Marshall in the runoff. I think this is pretty clear.

  • Also speaking of undecideds, you won't have those in the runoff. The undecideds in this race were brought out by races down-ticket. Cal may not have a name that people pick out of the blue, but it's clear that his support is very solid. This runoff will come down to GOTV, pure and simple.

  • If Cal doesn't take the Vinroot route - which I do believe is the way to go - both candidates need to make lemonade out of this situation. Be creative, and build an organization that can GOTV the runoff and then do it again in the general. A runoff is a prime opportunity to build an organization, and we're going to need something statewide if these NC-Sen candidates want to be anything more than dead weight going into November.

  • Additionally, while you've got to handicap the race for Burr at this point, we still need a strong candidate who can build an organization that will help preserve our majority in the GA. It disgusts me that the Democratic Party in NC can't get together an organization that identifies the Dems in judicial races. Al Bain & Leto Copeley - and other judicial candidates - suffered this deficiency the hard way.

  • The Shakir supporters won Mecklenburg County. There's some really good activists in that group, and I hope they're going to work for some GA candidates in the fall 'cause we need them.

  • Speaking of which, we've got some great women who won their primaries and are running for seats in the GA. Support them!

  • I'm sorry to report that Phil Gilfus didn't win his primary. Luckily, he still represents us on the DNC.

  • Elaine is getting most of the action on the #NCSen tag today.

  • Ken Lewis wasn't carrying water for Elaine - his only chance was to pull Cal down and make the runoff. It didn't work. Sorry to see their campaign manager handed his first loss - he's a great guy.

  • I disagree with the argument that Cal should drop the runoff due to the financial crisis. We should always have enough money to fund our democracy, from voting to early vote to campaign finance auditors.

  • You have to ask yourself how much better Elaine would have done with institutional support. That - and the belief that we need to start the coordinated campaign NOW - comprises my central reasoning behind Cal should step aside; feel free to disagree.

  • If Cal got 36% and Elaine got 27%, I would want Elaine to step aside.

  • Cal still has one of the most creative & talented people in politics - Mr. Bully - and I can't wait to see what he comes up with for the runoff.

  • All of this could be moot depending on how bad the Easley mess gets. I think we might have to clean house at some point and give the GA to the GOP to flush out all of the people who are bringing our state government down. But not right now, when our legislature is faced with what may be the hardest term of our generation.

  • Unlike the pundits on TV, I have no problem admitting that I may be off the mark in a couple of these not-so-deep thoughts. Feel free to point that out.

Hope everybody got enough sleep!

PS - more thoughts from other thread:

  • In a runoff, 10-20% of the voters that voted yesterday will decide the election in the best case scenario. Seems undemocratic to me.
  • If Cal wins the runoff, his combined vote totals from the primary and runoff will still likely be less than the 170K votes that would have represented 40% in the first primary.
  • And instead of spending money to reach North Carolina's 6 million voters, the campaigns will use expensive microtargeting to reach the 50-100K voters who will vote in the runoff but will already be voting for the Dem in November.

Comments

You Said

"If Cal got 36% and Elaine got 27%, I would want Elaine to step aside."

This is where I disagree. If no candidate gets 40%, there is a reason. Whether the reason is a weak candidate, or a deep field, or a bad campaign strategy, this needs to be figured out, especially when the winner is going up against an incumbent.

So long as the runoff candidates do not go negative on each other, I am not sure it hurts either's chances in the general.

A good campaign would have prepared for a runoff scenario even before the primary, and posturing aside I am sure that they all did.

If you really want to rush the process, rush the other three candidates to make their endorsements and see where we stand then. Again, any top campaign should have those endorsements in their pockets already.

Just because there is a

Just because there is a reason (or a combination of them)* for Elaine being 3.6% away from the General, there is no "reason" that needs to be figured out, and if there is a reason that needs to be figured out, it doesn't need to be figured out by a runoff. I see no support for those claims; if those assumptions were absolute the runoff would be involuntary. Feel free to explain those assumptions.

The runoff will probably go negative, and there will be a lot of insider baseball and dirty laundry aired because the electorate in a runoff is comprised of insiders. One can hope for a clean runoff; one can also hope Richard Burr turns into a chicken. This is an assumption based on the fact that Cal is no longer the frontrunner and has to find a way to eat into Elaine's lead, both among the voters last night and the supporters of other candidates.

Aside from Ken's endorsement, endorsements won't matter. And Ken's won't matter unless he donates the e-mail and volunteer lists.

*Reasons Elaine didn't win outright:
-1 moderately strong opposing campaign that raised more money but had high overhead costs
-1 moderately weak opposing campaign that had a strong field presence and important local endorsements
-6 names on the ballot, many voters who were going to the polls for other races (probably about 20% of voters didn't know the candidates)
-Elaine was frozen out of institutional money
-Cal's Triad strategy hurt Elaine's margin in those counties

I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero—that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth and justice. - Bill Hicks

I am going to commit heresy

and say that I believe in runoffs. I like the fact that in a multi-candidate contest people have the choice to vote for the one they genuinely prefer most--and if no one gets 40%, come back and make a thoughtful choice between the two still standing.

It's simple. It's not confusing.

So runoffs have lower turnouts? Tough cheese. Decisions in a democracy are made by the people who care enough to show up.

We ought to make it easy for them. Long poll hours. Easy registration process. Many polling sites. No-excuses early voting opportunities.

But beyond that, when there's no institutional barrier and they're not willing to spend 15 minutes to swing by the polling place, that's just tough. No credit to them, and their complaining rights are cut off for the next year.

Dan Besse