With less than two months to Election Day, candidates from the presidency down the ticket are facing more scrutiny. That was clearly evidenced in comments released this week in which Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, speaking at a fund-raiser, referred to 47 percent of Americans as “dependent on government.”
WFAE’s political analyst, Professor Michael Bitzer, joins Morning Edition host Duncan McFadyen to review the week’s political news.
MCFADYEN: It’s been a few days, now since [Romney’s] remarks have had some time to settle in, what’s your reaction now?
BITZER: I think part of this is playing into the Obama Campaign’s narrating the Romney candidacy as being something that is geared only towards the rich, and basically writing off nearly half of the electorate. It was really an unfortunate choice of words by Romney. In today’s modern campaigns, when there’s over 100 million smart phones out there, you have got to recognize that potentially your words are going to be recorded.
MCFADYEN: Could there be a positive in this? Could these comments actually excite some of the conservatives who’ve been lukewarm to Romney thus far?
BITZER: Well I think from a realistic point of view, yes. We typically see about 45 to maybe 47 percent of the electorate who has pretty much made up their mind on both sides. So, we’re talking about a pretty small percentage. This comment also, potentially---if you listen to people like Rush Limbaugh and some very conservative individuals---they want this kind of discussion, they want this kind of debate within the electorate regarding the dependency of folks on government services. So this is something that suddenly plays into the hard core conservative base. I’m not really sure among the swing voters, the very few who are out there, are really going to be something that this kind of statement appeals to.
MCFADYEN: Let’s move on the North Carolina governor’s race. Increasingly, we’re seeing outside money from national interests---particularly the Republican Governor’s Association and the Democratic Governor’s association. Both groups were involved in ads that were running in two ads in most of the media markets across the state this week. Let’s take a listen to one of them. This is what’s being run by the Republican Governor’s Association against Democrat Walter Dalton
VOICE OVER IN RGA AD: “…Under Dalton and Perdue, North Carolina has the worst business taxes in the South. The Dalton/Perdue Record: higher taxes, killing jobs…”
MCFADYEN: So first of all, how about that music in the background?
BITZER: It almost sounds like something from the Blair Witch project. A horror story, a horror movie soundtrack. Taxes are going to come up and stab you in the back!
MCFADYEN: Now the Raleigh News and Observer fact-checked this ad and they ruled that this part of it is largely false. They said the two were elected separately; they aren’t even particularly close and the part about taxes is also a little misleading, because in South Carolina, which is governed by conservative Republicans who didn’t raise taxes, the unemployment rate is exactly the same as it is in North Carolina.
BITZER: Walter Dalton is going to be portrayed as Bev Perdue part two, and so the argument that McCrory is making is that there’s a culture of corruption; we need time for change.
MCFADYEN: And the ad on the other side in the governor’s race. It’s funded by the North Carolina Citizens for Progress, in part by the Democratic Governor’s Association. It attacks Pat McCrory for his work following his tenure at Duke Energy, for a Charlotte law firm that, among other things, lobbies for petroleum interests.
BITZER: Yeah, I think this, this is going to be the typical approach that we’re going to see for the next forty-some-odd days. They’re going to take very small snippets and basically explode it into guilt by association, and it’s going to happen on both sides.
MCFADYEN: Let’s move down the ticket again to the 8th District Congressional Race, where incumbent Democrat Larry Kissell is facing a tough challenge from Republican Richard Hudson. They’re having their first debate Monday; it’s sponsored by the AARP. What are you going to be looking for in that debate?
BITZER: It’s going to be interesting to see how Kissell either distances himself continuously from the president and the administration, how much he says he is an independent voice, and in particular how much he may be playing up his own conservative credentials. This district is much more conservative than when he ran in 2010 or 2008. This is going to be potentially a Republican pick-up. What Hudson needs to do is solidify his Republican base and continue hammering Kissell on some common themes, but also have the chance to introduce himself more broadly to the electorate in this district.