Leading up to the November election, most Fridays, Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer is joining WFAE’s Morning Edition host Duncan McFadyen to talk politics.
MCFADYEN: So the race for the North Carolina governorship has heated up a bit this week. Lt Governor Walter Dalton speaking to WECT in Wilmington said that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of raising taxes. Let’s take a listen…
LT. GOVERNOR DALTON: No, I would not make that type of promise. If you look at my history in the NC Senate, I voted for a lot of tax reductions. Elimination of the food tax; I was the co-sponsor of the bill to give a sales tax holiday. I voted to reduce the corporate tax. But I have voted to raise some taxes. I think you have to look at where we are in time and what can happen.
MCFADYEN: Republican challenger Pat McCrory responded by creating a video that loops just that last part of what Dalton said. What does this mean for the campaign?
BITZER: It’s falling into the tax and spend mantra that Republicans typically use against Democrats. Ever since George H. W. Bush said, “read my lips, no new taxes,” and he broke that pledge, Republicans have been very adamant on no new taxes. Particularly in this economic situation that we continue to find ourselves in, Dalton is basically trying to have it both ways. He’s saying I’m not going to sign the pledge because we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but this is certainly playing into McCrory and the advantage that he has in terms of focusing on unemployment, the jobs issue, we shouldn’t be raising taxes at this point. This is almost a kind of tailor-made opportunity for McCrory to continue to hammer Dalton.
MCFADYEN: Do you think it’s political suicide for Dalton or any other candidate for that matter, to say they wouldn’t rule out the possibility of raising taxes?
BITZER: I am shocked that a candidate at this point would come out with that kind of statement. Try and deflect or turn the conversation back to the points that you really want to make. Everybody is concerned about jobs, they’re concerned about the economy. North Carolina has 9.4 percent unemployment compared to 8.2 percent nationally. Even though he hedged on that in that quote, it’s still surprising that he’s not more focused on where he needs to be with jobs and unemployment.
MCFADYEN: Moving on to the presidential race, third-party candidate libertarian Gary Johnson was in the Charlotte region this past weekend. Can a third-party candidate like a Gary Johnson play a role in North Carolina---a state President Obama won in 2008 by just over 14,000 votes?
BITZER: Oh yes, definitely. If you look back to 2008, the libertarian candidate then, Bob Barr, pulled in 25,000 votes. Now that was a little over half of one percent, but if you’re talking about an election where the deciding factor is 13, 14, 15… thousand votes, that could certainly have an impact. And libertarians tend to pull more Republican support, but if [Johnson] makes the push for both sides, this could be an interesting situation where a third-party spoiler may come in and throw the election one way or the other.
MCFADYEN: Another issue that could be particularly touchy in the presidential race is gun control. Both candidates---President Obama and Mitt Romney---have addressed the issue this week. How is that going to play out here in North Carolina?
BITZER: Well North Carolina is a center-right state. With the rural influence across North Carolina politics, the issues of guns are particularly near and close to many North Carolinians’ hearts---particularly among conservatives. The NRA has a substantial presence and can mobilize their troops. If President Obama is going to take this as an issue to campaign on, he may be again kind of doing the Dalton move of moving off the economy and jobs. And I’m not sure it would play out in the president’s advantage, because realistically it’s only going to mobilize the NRA. They’re going to have their voters out in force, and it’s only going to give them one more advantage.