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 first debate of the U.S. Senate contest now in the books, we got a clear sense of what we should expect for the final two months of the Tillis-Hagan race: More of the same that we’ve seen for the past several months. 

Going into the debate, the big question seemed to be whether Tillis and Hagan would appeal to their respective electoral bases, or to the middle of the electorate, where the small number of independents may be convinced to finally pay attention two months before the actual election?

Even though the “general” campaign started immediately after Thom Tillis won the May primary, the real general campaign can start in earnest with the end of summer.   

And in the notorious “sixth-year” itch that voters can get against the president’s party, Hagan has added baggage that makes her climb to re-election even harder.

Hagan certainly benefited from the ground game that Obama brought to the state in 2008, but now she has to figure out how to develop a ground game with a president who isn’t on the ballot and has a low approval rating to boot.

Now that we’re entering the home stretch of summer, North Carolinians will come back from the beach, get the kids ready for school, and some may start to pay attention to the looming general election.  So it might be wise to take stock of where things stand in what has been described as a “nondescript, virtually unnoticed, hugely important Senate race” and “the

Much has been made about the recent vote by the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to authorize the Speaker to initiate a lawsuit “regarding the failure of the President … to act in a manner consistent with that official’s duties under the Constitution and laws of the United States with respect to implementation” of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

Now that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down Virginia’s marriage ban for same-sex couples, the question turns from “if” gay marriage will be allowed in North Carolina to “when” it will occur.

I recently spoke to WFAE’s Tom Bullock for a story about the state budget impasse and its likely culprits - political safe districts.

As a political scientist, I always have to think of different factors that may explain what happens in politics, which makes my job that much more fun, or frustrating, depending on what we’re trying to understand and explain.

The past few days have testified to the old political saying: there are two things you never want to watch being made — sausage and laws. 

And in the attempts to pass a readjusted state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, the North Carolina General Assembly has also played into another old saying: Actions speak louder than words.

In trying to resolve their fundamental differences on the $21 billion state budget, the state House and Senate formed what is often referred to as the “third chamber” of legislatures: A conference committee.

There are certain stories that just come out every election cycle like clockwork, akin to a consistent dog whistle for some reporters who really don’t want to take the time to investigate the past to discover what might be in the present.

Much has been made about who will show up in elections and how both parties put together their different coalitions to win in state-wide general elections.  And with the significant growth in one bloc of the general population, both sides are attempting to see how they can best capitalize on a changing electorate.

When I wrote my last post for The Party Line, we were expecting that all the attention on Tuesday’s primary election would be in South Carolina. Instead, the political earthquake centered in Richmond, Va., with the unseating of the second-most powerful Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives.

And while most commentators are readying national implications into the race, it would seem like the old adage of former House Speaker Tip O’Neill still rings true: All politics is local.