Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Appalachia to Argentina: Can Things Get Any Worse for the GOP?

OK, so this isn't about Tar Heel Politics, but as it is from my homestate, I have to comment on the latest news about Gov. Sanford's admission of an affair with someone in Argentina.

Granted, it was hard to watch the rambling conference at first, but you could tell that some big shoe was going to drop--and did it ever. Sanford, a notorious pol who would challenge anyone who disagreed with his principles (and yes, he did have principles, whether you agree with them or not), especially those in his own party. Now, with the affair admission, Sanford has, like Ensign before him just a few weeks ago, left the GOP asking "who is going to be left in 2012?"

Sanford was seen as a darling of the fiscal conservatives, battling against the stimulus package with the principle that the federal stimulus monies would do more damage than letting the economy work itself out (or, paying down the state's debt instead of the mandated requirements). But now that's out the door with his affair. And what else is out the door is, "who's left for the GOP in 2012?"

Even with the race for 2012 already underway (the invisible primary), the GOP is finding itself with a depleted stall of potential candidates to go up against Obama's re-election. My bet is that they will go with someone with little name recognition at this point. Of course, Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin are still standing, but Palin has such little reach beyond social conservatives that it may just be Pawlenty who is considered the lead horse for the race. An early indication will be 2010's mid-term elections and how much Pawlenty, Palin, and others as yet to be named will be out there trying to revitalize the damaged GOP brand. But one can bet, it won't be Sanford.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Division, Division, Division

The second release of findings from the most recent Elon University Poll finds that both North and South Carolinians agree on one thing: yes Carolina, there is still political division. Interestingly, South Carolinians agree more than their cousins to the north when it comes to the political grand canyon that we currently reside in.

65% of Palmetto State residents believe that the country is more political divided these days than in the past, with 55% of Tar Heels agreeing.

And one doesn't have to look very far to find the division. A significant majority (57%) of all Carolinians believe that Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C. are opposing one another more than usual.

Another example of division comes to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, otherwise known as the stimulus package: 46% in both states oppose/strongly oppose the package, while 46% support/strongly support the package. North Carolinians favored the package slightly more, while the reverse was true once you go below "South of the Border."

There is some agreement, however, that both Carolina states share with one another. Too much has been done for "large banks in danger of failing" (75%), "financial institutions in danger of failing" (67%), and "U.S. auto companies in danger of going bankrupt" (65%), while too little has been done for "homeowners facing foreclosure or who have already lost their home" (47%) and "small business owners struggling with staying in business" (67%).

What does this mean? Well, the backlash against Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue seems to be alive and well in the Carolinas, with an intense animosity towards big business and elected officials.

What this might entail for the upcoming mid-term election is too far out to know, but if this numbers hold over the next year, and the general economy doesn't start to recuperate before this time next year, then it's going to be an ugly for incumbents of both political parties--and that could translate into a potentially tough race for North Carolina's U.S. Senator Richard Burr.

Friday, April 24, 2009

North vs. South (Carolinas, that is)

Through the very kind folks at Elon University's Poll, we have some early indicators as to how President Obama is faring in the Carolinas, and beyond that, some interesting perspectives on how residents in the Carolinas see national issues--and it's not always eye-to-eye (this beyond the token "who does one refer to when one says 'Carolina' in the context of college sports").

Anyway, as to be expected based on last fall's general election returns, President Obama has a higher approval rating in the North (56% approve or strongly approve) than in the South (47.4% approve or strongly approve), with a combined approval rating of both states at 52.3% (approve/strongly approve).

Ironically, though, sizable portions (49.5%) of both Carolinians disapprove of his handling of the economy (personality seems to trump policy at this point, as matched in some national polls). But when broken down between the sister states, Tar Heels give him a 50-44% approve/disapprove rating, compared to Palmetto residents who give him a 40/55% approve/disapprove rating.

Again combining residents, a majority of Carolinians believe Obama is trying to do too much (50%) versus 38.7% who believe he is focused on the right number of issues. But broken down, 54.8% of Southern Carolinians feel that Obama is doing too much, versus 46.5% of Northern Carolinians.

Along with some other interesting numbers, two things really stick out to me in the poll.

First, when asked "do you think the [Republican Party or the Democratic Party] is doing a better job of managing the economy?", respondents in both states said:

  • Democratic Party: 36.7%
  • Republican Party: 19%
  • Neither party: 33.9%

But when broken down within both states, South Carolinians, who should be more supportive of the GOP, answered:

  • Democratic Party: 34%
  • Republican: 19.6%
  • Neither party: 35.3%

For the Republican Party to garner such low ratings is kind of surprising in the Palmetto State, but this could be due (partly, I would say) to the fact that the state has the second highest unemployment rate under a currently unpopular Republican governor.

The other interesting tidbit is that while the economy and jobs & unemployment (two separate issues) garnered the top two spots in "the most important issue facing your state," North Carolinians ranked those two higher than South Carolinians, while Southerns ranking elementary and secondary education (at 14.8% of respondents) twice as high as Northerns (only 6.7% of Tar Heel respondents said it was the most important issue).

If education continues to be a critical issue, then that may be an opening for exploitation by the Democrats in South Carolina, once ranked as an endangered species.

The poll was conducted by Hunter Bacot and his staff at the Center for Public Opinion Polling, part of Elon University's Institute for Politics and Public Affairs. The margin of error (MoE) for the overall poll is +/- 3.9%, with NC's MoE +/- 5.3 and SC's MoE at +/- 5.7%.