This diary was written for our friends at DailyKos. However, I would love the opinions of this site on my ideas and assertions.
The following post is a recap of recent politics in North Carolina, and why I think they point to an unseating of Elizabeth Dole in 2008. I know it is rather long, but please bear with me.
It has been a long time since a Democratic candidate for the White House has won the state of North Carolina. Because of this, my state is often painted red on national maps. This view was aided by the elections of Elizabeth Dole in 2002 and Richard Burr in 2004. Additionally, our congressional delegation was at 7-6 Republican for too long. But, changes are afoot.
In an ironic twist, a large amount of this change is due to our state being led by Democrats. Republicans have controlled the governor's mansion only briefly in recent memory. Their control of the state house was even more fleeting, and they have not controlled the state senate since the civil war. In recent years, this strong Democratic leadership has enacted policies that now make North Carolina one of the fastest growing states in the country. Recent political trends have led to a reversal of congressional fortune. With the unseating of Chuck "The Lumberjack" Taylor this past November we now have a 7-6 lead in the congressional delegation. A miracle candidacy by Larry Kissell against Robin "Flip-flopper" Hayes almost created an 8-5 lead.
In the 2006 Midterms 12 of the 13 Congressmen in North Carolina had challengers. Democratic candidates got 50.8% of the vote. If you include the non-challenged incumbent, Democratic candidates got 52.9% of the vote. Compare that number to 2004, when George Bush beat John Kerry with 56% of the vote. In that same year, in US House races, Democratic candidates received 48.9% of the vote. You will notice that the difference between 2004 and 2006 is very small. The fact is that the much-touted "Blue Wave" didn't significantly impact our congressional voting on a macro level.
My rationale for this, though, might surprise many people. It is my opinion that the Democratic vote in North Carolina can be traced to two main factors. The first is that most people in this state don't trust the national Democratic Party. We do, however, trust and love OUR Democrats. The "contradiction" between the views of a person on guns and abortion and their view on economic issues is not apparent to many in this state like it is to the press. This is not because we are dumb; rather it is because we understand where such a contradiction comes from. The biblical populism of men like Heath Shuler just makes sense to those that live in this state, and in my experience, those that live in much of the south and west.
The second reason, is that I do not think there is quite the same amount of people who "have never voted for a Democrat" in this state. We are a state in flux. Between very popular Democratic governors, and changing national parties, people in this state are used to Democrats who look like Republicans, and Republicans who look like Democrats. (Usually this distinction is more apparent to the outside observer).
So, now for the big question; how does all of this add up to a defeat of Elizabeth Dole?
First of all there are hints of a better future. In 2004, exit polling was done in North Carolina, by Fox News, which sought to prove Edwards only ran for President because he would have lost his senate seat. However, the poll showed Edwards would have won by 6 to 7 points over Burr, among the exact same people that gave Bush such a large victory. Add that on to the campaigns of Heath Shuler and Larry Kissell in 2006.
Second, support for the McCain doctrine is languishing. One recent poll showed support for the "president's plan" at 40%. When the wording was changed to "how long should we stay?" over 60% said we should leave within a year. On another poll, this one conducted by a very conservative think tank, only 11% supported raising the troop levels.
Third, Dole's poll numbers are horrific. While the incumbent, Democratic Governor has enjoyed approval numbers in the mid 50s for most of his term, Dole is now at 36 approve, 36 disapprove. In a purely hypothetical matchup she would lose to said Governor 41 to 44.
Fourth, life is in the details. Dole has supported the Navy over family farmers on OLF (I know my link is "biased" but deal with it). She has atrocious constituent services. While I can only give you anecdotes, suffice it to say that she has been creating activists for us instead of making her seat safer. And, no one can prove to me that she comes to North Carolina more than every few weeks to visit her mother.
Fifth, is the military vote. North Carolina is dominated by military bases. Support of troops is much more than a catch phrase here. However, Dole has toed the Republican line on giving less benefits to veterans. Those adds by the VoteVet group, if personalized, would drop her support 5 points in this state in my opinion.
Sixth, and most important, is her rubberstamping. North Carolina loves independent politicians. We like people who fight for what they believe in, not what their party tells them to believe in. This is one of the big reasons why Helms, the racist scourge upon humanity, kept getting reelected.
How is this going to be done?
First and foremost, no DC consultants are going to win this race. As those on this site know, time and again we have seen good candidates turned into mindless robots who are afraid of their own shadow. Want to know why we can't win in the south? Because, we expect a man to stand up for himself. Someone attacks you, hit back. Don't just quietly call him a liar a week later. Get angry that he would insult you and then explain why he is lower than dirt. Any campaign run by the inside the beltway, conventional wisdom folks is doomed to failure.
Second, don't try to be something you are not. You are a Democrat. Act like it. Running on a Republican-Lite, DLC platform might look good from DC, but we can smell a rat. If we want a Republican we will vote for one. Give us a choice please.
Third, and most important to me, is the grassroots and netroots. If we want to win we need strong support for candidates across the state. The difference between a congressional candidate without support and a congressional candidate with support could mean between twenty and fifty thousand extra votes for our eventual challenger to Elizabeth Dole. Giving support to candidates who are running grassroots campaigns helps us statewide. It might not hurt any less to lose by 5 points instead of 15, and its still a loss, but those 10 points might be the difference between a close loss and a big win for our Senate candidate.