Friday, July 25, 2008

Hillary protesters greet Dean in Charlotte

Around two dozen Hillary Clinton supporters, some carrying signs saying "Dump Dean," attempted to shout down Democratic national chairman Howard Dean during an appearance in Charlotte today.

The protesters, who described themselves as members of a group called "Charlotte Front and Center," shouted and waved signs as Dean spoke to about 150 people at a voter registration rally on West Boulevard.

The demonstrators said they were protesting what they said was a decision not to put Clinton's name in nomination at next month's Democratic convention.

Dean was briefly drowned out by shouts such as "I own my vote."

"I'm gonna let these folks shout a little bit because I can't hear you folks," Dean said, pausing his speech for a short time.

"There will be a roll call vote at the convention if Hillary Clinton wants one," he went on. "We all respect each other and we certainly respect Sen. Clinton. This is a unified party. It is not easy to be on the losing side and I know ... because four years ago, I was on the losing side."

The shouts continued intermittently. When Dean mentioned what he called "the biggest job for President Obama," protesters shouted "He's not president!"

Dean went on to urge the larger crowd of Democrats to help register what he said is an estimated 1 million unregistered North Carolinians.

Speaking to reporters later on his bus, he dismissed the protesters.

"I'm not sure all of them are Clinton supporters," he said. "I think some of them are having fun at the Democrats' expense. I think shouting through somebody's speech is low-class."

(The photo is from the group's Web site.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Did Edwards' VP chances take tabloid hit?

As the handicapping of vice presidential candidates continues, Democrat John Edwards has kept alive speculation that he’s in the running.

“I'm not seeking the job,” he told reporters in Denver this week. “But anything Senator Obama would ask me to do in his campaign or presidency I would consider seriously.”

But has a tabloid newspaper sunk any chances he had?

For two days, reactions to a story posted this week by the National Enquirer have spilled into the blogosphere and at least one network TV show.

The Enquirer, which months ago alleged an affair by former N.C. senator, this week said its reporters caught him having a rendezvous with the woman, Rielle Hunter, at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills.

The paper said Hunter had two rooms at the hotel Monday night. It said a team of reporters watched Edwards go into the hotel at 9:45 p.m. and then ambushed him on his way out at 2:40 a.m. when, it said, he ducked into a bathroom.

The paper published no photos or no eyewitness accounts beyond those of its reporters. A hotel spokeswoman declined to talk about the alleged incident Thursday, citing a “non-disclosure policy.”

Asked about the allegations in Houston Wednesday, Edwards said, “ “That's tabloid trash. They’re full of lies. I’m here to talk about helping people.”

But the political damage may have been done.

“Many a vice presidential candidate has been doomed by rumors, ones that have both been true and untrue,” Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director, told the Observer. “The Obama camp loves to call him ‘No Drama Obama.’ He’s not picking somebody that provides drama, no matter how true or untrue the allegations.”

Or, as an Opinion blog on the L.A. Times web site said Wednesday, “Barack Obama's VP shortlist might have gotten shorter.”

Don Fowler of Columbia, a former Democratic National Chairman, agreed.

"Any kind of report like this, unless there is some absolute proof that it is not true, will be believed by some people," he said, "and the degree to which it seems to have credibility will be believed by more people. And when you select somebody to be vice presidential candidate the number one rule of everything is, you sure as hell don't want somebody who will hurt you."

The Enquirer story was mentioned Wednesday night on CNN’s Glenn Beck show. But for the most part, the mainstream media has ignored it. Bloggers have taken note.

Slate’s Jack Shafer called it a double standard, and contrasted it with press coverage of Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who was arrested arrested at an airport last year “for playing footsies in a toilet stall.”

To Enquirer editor David Perel, the blogosphere is closer to the mainstream than traditional media.

“‘Mainstream’ media is a misnomer, the amount of attention the story is getting online is huge,” he told me Thursday. “Basically, new media is leading the way on this, and that’s going to continue to happen.”

I asked Perel about photos or eyewitness accounts. He wouldn’t talk about that.

“Well, stay tuned, that’s all I can say,” he said. “Everything’s done incrementally. So I’m not going to tell you exactly what our process is. Perhaps my time frame is different than your time frame. I’m not worried about the rest of the media. I’m worried about us.”

Perel called it “an extremely difficult story to work.
“We wanted to continue with it until we found a smoking gun. I basically wanted to catch him in the act and that’s what we did. Got day and date, time and place.”

Fowler suggested the story could hurt Edwards more than other politicians.

"If you had this rumor about Bill Clinton it probably wouldn't cause a ripple," he said. "But given John Edwards and his public relationship with his wife, something close to a model of the perfect family and their perfect relationship, it would hurt that much more."

Hagan, Dole and the war for vets

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kay Hagan spent nearly an hour today listening to Charlotte-area veterans talk about their problems getting health care and other benefits.

One told her about having to get up at 3 a.m. to catch a Greyhound bus to the V.A. hospital in Salisbury. Another talked about the 14,000 pending claims by N.C. veterans backlogged at a V.A. office in Winston-Salem.

"People are frustrated because Washington is broken," Hagan said after meeting the 30 or so vets at American Legion Post 380. It was her third town hall meeting with vets.

Her appearance came a day after her opponent, Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, announced her own “Veterans for Dole" steering committee. A statement that accompanied the announcement touted veterans' legislation she has supported, including a military and veteran health care bill.

Asked to describe Dole's record, Hagan said, "I don't think she's hearing the same complaints I'm hearing.

"Let me put it this way, my record will be a lot better."

Said Dole spokesman Hogan Gidley: “When it comes to providing for and supporting the military, Elizabeth Dole is second to no one. . .except perhaps her own husband. Frankly, I’m embarrassed for Kay Hagan that she suggested otherwise.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

DNC, RNC drives coming to NC

Democratic national chairman Howard Dean brings his voter registration drive to North Carolina Friday, with stops in Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte.

It's part of a "Register for Change" bus tour that started in Crawford, Texas, and is traveling the country leading up to next month's Democratic convention in Denver.

Dean will rill into Charlotte for a 3:30 p.m. event at the Margery Thompson Professional Development Center, 428 West Boulevard.

Meanwhile, Republican national chairman Mike Duncan today has begun his own “Victory 2008 Tour.” He'll meet with state GOP leaders and talk about John McCain's campaign. That tour also is scheduled to stop in North Carolina, though no schedule has been released.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

McCain and the press

I went by a Veterans for McCain rally today at Freedom Park, where about 50 vets listened to remarks from one of John McCain's fellow POWs and watched a video about the Arizona senator's war-time experiences.

Lee Teague, the chairman of the Mecklenburg County GOP, noted the handful of reporters in the room. He was surprised, he said, because he thought they were all traipsing around the world with Barack Obama.

Obama's trip to Iraq and Afghanistan has drawn more attention than similar trips by McCain. News anchors and big-name reporters are all aboard. It all lends itself to the kind of caricature of a media love fest that Saturday Night Live lampooned during the primary.

Now the McCain campaign is laughing back.

The campaign is staging a contest to see which of the two "The media loves Obama" videos people prefer.

"The media is in love with Barack Obama," a campaign statement said. "If it wasn't so serious, it would be funny."

Friday, July 11, 2008

Perdue doubles McCrory in fundraising

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bev Perdue has twice as much money in her campaign account as Republican Pat McCrory, after doubling his take in second quarter fundraising.

New reports show Perdue raised $2.3 million during the quarter to McCrory's $1 million. Perdue had $1.4 million on hand compared to McCrory's $700,000.

Perdue, the lieutenant governor, raised twice as much as Democrat Mike Easley had in 2000, when he also ran for governor the first time.

But McCrory's fundraising compares favorably to that of the last two GOP nominees, Patrick Ballantine in 2004 and Richard Vinroot in 2000. Both Republicans lost to Easley.

“We are very pleased with the strong support our campaign has received from across the state," said Richard Hudson, campaign manager for the Charlotte mayor. "He will have the financial resources necessary to win in November."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Easley sends plane for funeral guest

Former Republican Gov. Jim Martin got a free ride to Jesse Helms' funeral Tuesday -- courtesy of Democratic Gov. Mike Easley.

Easley's office offered Martin a ride aboard the jet the governor often uses on state business. Flight records show the Cessna Citation picked Martin up in Concord in the morning and flew him back after the funeral.

"I was happy to accept that, it saved a couple hours each way," Martin said. "I thought it was a nice gesture."

The two round-trips took less than two hours, according to flight records. The 8-passenger plane costs $770 per hour to operate, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Commerce, which owns it. Martin appeared to be the lone passenger.

Easley spokesman Seth Effron said the Democratic governor offered the plane "as a matter of protocol and professional courtesy to the former governor because this was a matter of state.”

Former Gov. Jim Holshouser also attended the funeral, as did other mourners from Charlotte.

Asked how taxpayers might view the trip, Martin said, "If taxpayers would object to that, it probably won't happen again. But I thought it was very thoughtful of (Easley)."

Monday, July 07, 2008

Obama, Helms and symbols

The crowd that came to hear Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama Monday filed into a Charlotte middle school past an American flag flying at half-mast.

The flag was lowered to commemorate Friday's death of North Carolina's longtime U.S. senator, Jesse Helms.

Though plane trouble force Obama to cancel, the irony of the first black presidential nominee scheduling a visit to Helms' home state on the eve of his funeral wasn't lost.

"Sen. Helms represented ... views and perspectives that were wrong-minded, that represented the last century," Jennifer Roberts, chair of the Mecklenburg County commissioners, told the crowd. "We are moving from a politics of division to a politics of unity and the future."

After days of retrospectives about Helms, the Washington Post today re-ran a column that political columnist David Broder wrote about the senator on the occasion of his 2001 retirement announcement.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

ISO convention bloggers

Are you a Carolina blogger planning to attend either the Democratic convention in Denver or the Republican convention in Minneapolis?

If so, let me know. Both parties plan to accommodate bloggers. For possible stories, we'd like to get in touch.

Let me know by posting here or emailing