Michael Bitzer

Political Columnist

Dr. Michael Bitzer is an associate professor of politics and history at Catawba College, where he also serves as the 2011-2012 Swink Professor for Excellence in Classroom Teaching and the chair of the department of history & politics.  A native South Carolinian, he holds graduate degrees in both history and political science from Clemson University and The University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. Dr. Bitzer’s studies have focused on Southern politics, campaigns and elections, and a variety of topics in American politics.

With the pending U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage expected, and the issue of whether North Carolina magistrate’s should be allowed a ‘religious objection’ to performing same-sex marriages, the culture wars over social issues are still being fought in earnest.

Yes, it’s a year and a half away from the November 2016 general election, but already the punditry and analysis has begun in terms of what could happen in the looming presidential contest.

With the presidential primary campaign heating up, the Republican field has become “anybody’s game.” It’s still fairly quiet on the Democratic side, with the possibility of a Clinton coronation still looming.

But the likelihood that the general election will be a similar cakewalk for Hillary Clinton isn’t borne out from the fact that most of the states, and thus the Electoral College votes, are already baked in for one side over the other.

With the first official “hat in the ring” by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, the free-for-all race for the Republican presidential nomination is off and running, to be followed in early April by fellow conservative U.S. Senator Rand Paul - all leading to another crowded Republican primary field.

In many sports, there’s the notion of an unforced error. It's something that the player did that costs the player, or their team.

In the game of politics, politicians commit unforced errors as well. But when you’re talking about the ultimate prize of power, those unforced errors can be more damaging than a simple dropped shot.

Recently, there have been two major unforced errors committed by both sides of the political fence.  While the scores may be different for both sides, the damage done shows the lack of strategy and, at its core, thinking by both players.

As many presumptive presidential candidates are heavily engaged in the ‘invisible primary’ process right now, the key caucus activity of this phase of the race for the 2016 White House is fundraising.

And if 2014 is any indication, 2016 should break all fundraising records.

Now that we’re through the “chief executive’s wish list” phase of the legislative year, both for the nation and the North Carolina, the comparison between the two give us a hint as to how both President Barack Obama and Governor Pat McCrory are setting the agenda for the coming year.

Just two months ago, President Obama and the Democrats suffered a sixth-year shellacking, with Republicans picking up large numbers in both congressional chambers.

Imagine the surprise, then, on both sides of the political aisle when a freed president came into his penultimate State of the Union address and pronounced what may have been the most liberal statement of values of his presidency.

With the mid-term election year fought out between Democrats and Republicans, we can now turn our attention to a brand new year, along with a fresh round of new political fights. But this year, as prelude to the 2016 presidential election year, will probably focus more on intra-party battles as opposed to what we saw in 2014.

Now that the NC State Board of Elections has gathered the final data from the 100 counties for the 2014 general election, some patterns exist to give us a better sense of the details of this year’s electoral contest.

First, 2014’s mid-term seems to fit a growing pattern of competitiveness in North Carolina’s elections, and will most likely continue in 2016. In looking at the presidential, U.S. Senate, and gubernatorial races since 2008, the average margin of victory is 5.6 percent.