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Ten Best: Benefits of a late primary

by Amy Kingsley

Live from the front row

Here’s something to think about: If Sen. Hillary Clinton takes Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the Democratic nomination for president will still be in play by the time the wheezing, bickering campaigns clatter into North Carolina for the May 6 primary. Voters with a keen interest in the contest have already witnessed the candidates circle the state in South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. By the time they cross our borders, Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama should be, at the very least, very well known quantities.

Save our lawns

Our lawns have taken a collective thumping at the hands of a drought that’s persisted since last summer. Do we need to add insult to injury by puncturing them with campaign signage? Should our yards be both brown and pocked? Campaigns are lousy with the free yard signs. I say we let South Carolina keep ’em.

Governor, super, AG… oh my!

Less presidential politicking means more attention to races for governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer and state superintendent. State government levies income taxes, outlines school curricula and directs dollars to institutions of higher learning. So you should care about it, even if it’s not terribly sexy. Getting to know your local and statewide candidates is easier when national candidates aren’t hogging the press spotlight.

Willie Horton who?

Which brings me to campaign ads. They tend to be a little milder – at least in North Carolina – on the state level than the vicious jeremiads that pass for presidential advertising. (Remember that I’m talking about a year in which Vernon Robinson will not be campaigning for political office.) So, for now your college basketball broadcasts should be blissfully free of all forms of fear mongering, mudslinging, pandering and whitewashing.

Gaining gridlock

Obama collects capacity crowds like a philatelist amasses special edition postage. If he comes to North Carolina, he’ll probably visit the Triangle and the Triad, two areas brimming with young eligible voters – his favorite kind. That means choking traffic up and down the Interstate 40 corridor. It also means a run on posterboard, plain T-shirts and puff paint – the implements college-age, candidate-besotted Obama fans use to convey their feelings.

Desperation

Ah the sweet smell. After 10 consecutive defeats, the Clinton campaign is getting nervous. If she’s still in it by May, her campaign and Obama’s should pretty well have spent their ammunition. What will they resort to? Will there be more feel-good debates like the one in California? Or will one of the campaigns stealthily hire Karl Rove to drive a nail into the other’s coffin?

Learning stuff

The last time North Carolina played a role in the presidential nominating process was 1976, says my old UNC journalism professor Ferrell Guillory. That year, the state handed former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter a win over Alabama Gov. George Wallace in the battle of Southern Democrats. With the help of Sen. Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan won North Carolina’s Republican primary. Although he eventually lost the nomination, the vote put Reagan in good position to run again in 1980.

Paging John Edwards

The former senator from North Carolina has been awfully quiet since he withdrew from the presidential race three weeks ago. A boisterous campaign in his home state might be Edwards’ best opportunity for a curtain call. Whichever candidate wins his endorsement – if he decides to bestow it – would certainly benefit from having Edwards at their elbow as they travel the flats Down East and the Smoky Mountain foothills.

The end of apathy?

Until this year, North Carolina voters didn’t have to care much about either party’s candidates because our ballots didn’t matter anyway. We didn’t have to waste precious neurons on obscure political candidates with outsized ambitions. Let Iowa and New Hampshire separate wheat and chaff, we’d say. Give us a call when you’re ready to sell the grain. Well, we might be pulled into doing some dirty work this year, people, so put on your gloves.

We matter!

State lawmakers resisted the urge to move up this year’s primary. It’s looking like a better decision every day, especially after the muddle of Super Fat Tuesday. North Carolina’s 134 Democratic delegates are the biggest prize of the primary homestretch in May and early June. I’d like to extend an early welcome to the campaigns of senators Clinton and Obama. If you need any help getting around Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem, give us a call.

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