By Pete Zamplas- Voters in North Carolina play a pivotal role in deciding the next commander in chief and nation’s tilt in Congress, with the Richard Burr-Deborah Ross race deemed a dead heat and presidential popular national vote tightened as scandals simmer.
Sec. of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s slippage in polls is faster than the Wicked Witch of the West melting into a puddle. This is the newest twist in a fierce presidential election. It suggests the alleged Clinton cornucopia of corruption with renewed focus on her private emails’ political content (fishing for “pay-to-play” lobbying donations) and lack of security offsets or even trumps voters’ groping over Donald Trump’s personal controversies that harken to Bill Clinton’s days in the Oval Office.
The president is selected by electoral and not popular vote Nov. 8. Democrat Mrs. Clinton is still projected to win at least the 270 (out of 538) electoral votes needed. Some polls are showing the former first lady still on track to surpass 300 or even 330 electoral votes thanks to Democrat strongholds in several large industrial states.
Others indicate she may lose, if Trump picks off a couple states in her corner and takes several of these closest-contested big states: North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Iowa, Georgia, Virginia, Arizona and Nevada.
Even if Clinton wins a large electoral majority, a close popular outcome looms. This is apt to render congressional, state and local races more on their own merits than her pant suit coattails. Nationally, it can determine extent of traditional checks and balances on power against whomever is the next and 45th president.
Sen. Richard Burr
Conservative two-term Burr (R-N.C.) and civil rights attorney Ross are tied at 48 percent, in polls of CBS/YouGov and NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist released Sunday. Ross leads 48-45 percent, in a Gravis poll. But now Burr leads by one (Quinnipiac), and by four himself (Emerson) in other polls. A week earlier, he led by six (Monmouth). Heading into this week, Burr leads by a 2.2 average in RealClearPolitics online.
Ross, 53, served five full terms in the State House, to 2013. She is a Raleigh-based lawyer specializing in civil rights and renewable energy law who grew up in Connecticut. Burr, 60, chairs the pivotal Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.Each beat three others, in their primaries in May. Libertarian Sean Haugh is a wild card, in terms of who he will siphon votes from the most.
Several presidential polls released Monday also vary. In most, former Sec. of State Clinton narrowly leads — mostly from one to seven points — but real estate magnate Trump is now within reach overall and in more battleground states that could swing the election his way.
By Tuesday, Trump leads 47-43 percent in the newest Los Angeles Times/USC Tracking. Trump roared from 12 points down (50-38%) on Oct. 23 to lead, in a week of further ABC News/Washington Post polling of likely voters. First, before Clinton’s scandals worsened he pulled to within a point in polling Oct. 25-28.
Then over the weekend as Clinton alleged email improprieties spread, he pulled ahead 46-45 percent in polling Oct. 27-30. A side result was his opening a 10-point lead at 53-43 percent in the so-called “enthusiasm” gap for a candidate, indicating Clinton’s backers are weakening support.
In North Carolina, a Remington poll has Trump comfortably ahead by seven at 49-42 percent. That bodes well for Burr’s reelection hopes. Trump leads by seven in a Georgian TV station (WXIA) survey. He leads in Nevada by four, per Remington Research.
Clinton’s polling plummeted as her hometown billy goat-cursed Chicago Cubs are on the brink of defeat in the World Series. But a much more likely catalyst for the polling shift was when FBI Dir. James Comey announced Friday a review of a new batch of emails from Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state — this time by her longtime aide Huma Abedin. Some reflect Clinton’s political double-speak.
Trump said earlier-disclosed emails show how Clinton put her secretary of state office “up for sale” for influence by lobbyists home and abroad, that she pressured them to donate to her family’s foundation or for husband Bill to give speeches.
Further, Trump asserts a Hillary presidency would be dogged by investigations and rendered ineffective.
Hillary’s slip in polls dampens Democrats’ still formidable chance to retake the Senate. ABC last week rated Dems’ chances of taking the Senate at better than two-thirds, but the Senate seems more up for grabs.
Burr is among six Republican senators and lone one in the Southeast whose races are deemed closest, out of 11 battleground states in the Senate. Ten of those 11 seats are held by Republicans.
Both Ross and Burr or groups backing them are sending mailers nearly daily to the same residences, attacking the other candidate. Her ads link him with special interests, such as insurance companies Burr apologized Tuesday for his quip at a private event Saturday that a gun magazine’s cover had Hillary Clinton on the cover and he was “shocked…it didn’t have a bullseye on it.” Burr is among few senators running openly in conjunction with Trump.
Ads on his behalf trace her stands to being soft on terrorism and national defense, such as chastising U.S. intelligence more than terrorist attacks here and backing Pres. Obama’s deal lifting economic sanctions on Iran. That bolsters Iran’s affordability to arm itself and its terrorist allies, while delaying but not stopping its hell-bent course toward nuclear armament and destruction of Israel among others.
As a state rep, Ross reportedly voted against allowing criminal investigators tools to collect DNA evidence from terror suspects arrested for murder and bombings and questioned the sex offender registry. On immigration, she has backed “sanctuary cities” for unscreened foreigners.
Most anti-Ross messages focus on her reign as state head of the left-wing American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Charges include she fought in court for the right to burn the U.S. flag, but in another case not for a disabled veteran wanting to fly it.
Also she reportedly threatened to sue if teachers held a moment of silence for prayer in the classroom, or if a county’s commissioners displayed a copy of the Ten Commandments in a public meeting room. And she allegedly said soon after 9/11 attacks that “In God We Trust” may be “divisive and cause problems” including an ACLU suit.
In turn, the GOP is concerned that several more liberal justices could flood the U.S. Supreme Court if Democrats retain the White House and retake the Senate which votes to confirm nominees. One result of a more left-leaning court, some say, is a federal ruling overturning 26 states’ “right to work” laws protecting against forced unionization of employees and levying of steep dues as well as “card check” instant organizing.
North Carolina is seen as a toss up both for the U.S. Senate, and the presidential race. Florida, the other Southern state most in play, is moving more in polling for reelection Marco Rubio who ran for president and is among brighter young GOP stars. Veteran Sen. John McCain seems safer now in Arizona. Ohio leans GOP to retain Sen. Rob Portman, according to ABC News.
To take back the Senate, Democrats need a net gain of four seats to even the slate. The GOP has 54 senators. But Dems prevail with the vice-president breaking voting ties in their favor — if Tim Kaine is the next V.P. They are poised to capture Illinois and Wisconsin. They ideally need to take three more seats, to allow for possibly losing their Nevada seat on the bubble that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is vacating.
Along with N.C., the six toss ups in GOP hands are in Indiana (V.P. candidate Mike Pence’s state), Missouri, Pennsylvania (where Sen. Pat Twomey trails), and New Hampshire where Sen. Kelly Ayotte was far down, but now mostly leads. Nevada’s open seat was held by Democrat Harry Reid, retiring Senate minority leader. GOP senators vying for reelection are saying if Clinton does win as predicted, it is even more crucial to check her power by keeping the Senate in GOP hands.
Republicans have a much safer edge in the U.S. House. Two local incumbents are both Republicans. Two-term U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, 57, of Cashiers represents the 11th District. It covers the western region, including Henderson County and most of Buncombe other than Asheville. He has spoken for steps against Middle East terrorist threats, and helped draft the new conservative Contract with America such as to repeal Obamacare and the federal death/estate tax.
The Democrat opposing him is Bryson City alderman Rick Bryson. Bryson calls for a jobs program to create a WNC industrial specialized hub a la the state’s Research Triangle. Bryson, 72, got by retiree Tom Hill in an over-70 primary. Hill, 77, of Zirconia, told The Tribune weeks ago he was considering challenging that outcome.
Six-term congressman Patrick McHenry in the 10th District is the fourth highest-ranking Republican congressman in the nation, and the state delegation’s ranking House member. He turned 41 on Oct. 22. He was first elected at age 29, in 2004.
He succeeded Cass Ballenger, who served nine terms starting in 1986. He died last year at age 88. Cass was named after his ancestor, U.S. Sen. Lewis Cass (D-Mich.), also a secretary of War then State. Cass ran for president in 1848, in a three-way race won by Whig Zachary Taylor. Taking on McHenry is Democrat Andy Millard, who ran an investment firm in Polk County.
The 10th includes Asheville, Black Mountain, Rutherfordton, Shelby and Gastonia. The 10th recently absorbed much of liberal enclave Asheville into its very safe GOP district, and out of the 11th for decades has had close contests.
Ten of the 13 U.S. House districts in N.C. are considered safely Republican. The newer 13th, though, lacks an incumbent due to court-ordered redistricting that shifted it west to Statesville and High Point with Raleigh going to District 2. This moved U.S. Rep. George Holding (R-Raleigh) from the 13th into the 2nd, where he bumped out Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-Dunn) in the primary. The other three districts (1, 4 and 12) have urban corridors, and are staunchly in Democrats’ hands.
Democrats need to win a net of 30 seats, to seize House control. Pundits say that is unlikely, but possible if Clinton has long coattails and beats Donald Trump in a landslide — not merely electorally, but also more than by eight percentage points in the popular vote. Even some GOP analysts foresee the Democrats picking up as many as 15 seats, narrowing the gap and setting the stage to win the House in the next election which is in 2018.
However, historically such mid-term (in new presidencies) elections tend to go to the party not in the White House as the one in control is blamed more for woes.