The economic situation is darned interesting.
Kerry has tried to make the argument that the NC economy is dying fast, but that argument doesn't hold up very well: According to the U.S. B.L.S., NC has added (as of July 2004) more than 100,000 jobs since the low point of the recession in July, 2002.
Bush has tried to make two arguments: (1) the downturn in the economy was due to 9/11, and (2) the economy is getting stronger. The first certainly doesn't hold up, again using the the BLS data: Bush took office in January 2001. By September 2001, NC had already lost 90,000 jobs. One could say that so many fewer jobs in so short a period had to be some larger structural forces (tech bubble, over-built office space, etc), but the trend starts well before 9/11 in any case.
Is the economy getting stronger, in NC? The state's unemployment rate is 5%. That's 5.0 percent. When I was in grad school, the argument was over whether it was possible for the "Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment" could possibly be below 5.5. I guess it can, if we now consider 5% to be a problem.
Here is the way some of the "debate" may play out:
The Charlotte Observer (EXCERPT, from Lexis)
September 19, 2004, Sunday
Democratic candidate slams president, congressman to Pillowtex crowd
By Lena Warmack
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- As part of her campaign for the 8th Congressional District seat, Beth Troutman met with former Pillowtex employees in Cannon Village to offer her plan for reviving North Carolina's economy and bringing back jobs.
The visit coincided with President Bush's stop in Charlotte Friday for a forum and fund-raiser.Troutman, a Democrat, used the appearance to criticize Bush's economic plan and her opponent, Rep. Robin Hayes., R-Concord. "We have been sold out. There is not enough work in the 8th District in North Carolina," Troutman said. "Congressman Hayes and President Bush have failed North Carolina."
Troutman described the local economy as "struggling" because of recent job cuts and outsourcing of manufacturing jobs.Unemployment reached 6 percent in Cabarrus County this year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.Mary Willimson, 53, of Kannapolis, who has been unemployed for a year, accused President Bush of dodging Kannapolis during his visit to North Carolina."He forgot about us all," she said."We are still waiting for the economic recovery that you (President Bush) keep talking about," Troutman said.
Here is something I have said before, but so have others. (Especially Mark Johnson, of the Big O). It just seems to be getting more and more true. The issue of the North Carolina economy is going to pit Burr and Bush against Ballantine. Likewise, Bowles and Kerry have to run against Easley. (Who would have thought 4 of 6 candidates would all have names starting with B?) If the economy is doing well, it helps incumbents, who can claim credit. But if Kerry is going to argue NC is swirling down the hole in the porcelain, what is Governor Easley going to say? Ballentine will be able to use Kerry ads against Easley, unless they are careful. This sort of intraparty competition is not that rare, but I have rarely seen it pitched in such stark relief.
For example, here is a bit from Easley's web site:
North Carolina’s economic picture is improving. Last year, our state added jobs, while the nation lost jobs. Many of our families, however, are still struggling to find work and we owe it to them to do everything we can to grow jobs in our state. While we cannot control globalization and trade policies, these economic times require that we redouble our efforts to recruit and retain jobs and industry. Although the national economic situation and our national trade policy are outside of our direct control, we have done some things in a bipartisan manner to improve North Carolina’s economy.
Now, for the Kerry (i.e., anti-Easley) message:
"Only George W. Bush could celebrate over a record budget deficit, the loss of jobs over the past three years and last weekend's announcement of a record increase in Medicare premiums," Kerry said.
"W stands for wrong -- the wrong direction for America."
Kerry was campaigning in North Carolina, the home state of Sen. John Edwards, his running mate, emphasizing the loss of American jobs overseas and talking about his plan to change rules that let companies defer paying taxes on money earned abroad.
We give them a complete freebie," Kerry told about 300 people, "and when I'm president of the United States, it will take me about a nanosecond to ask the Congress to close that stupid loophole that rewards companies."
North Carolina voted for Bush in 2000 by 7 percentage points but, with Bush seen as vulnerable on job losses, the contest is closer this year, polls indicate. The state has lost more than 160,000 jobs during the Bush administration, mostly in the furniture and textile industries where free trade policies have encouraged the export of jobs to cheaper labor markets.
So, here's the point: the 160,000 job loss figure is a complete fabrication. The very worst thing you can say is that there has been a net loss of about 46,000 jobs in NC, and that is assuming that Bush is actually responsible for a trend (the bursting of the internet/tech bubble) that was on its way no matter what.
Well, then....are the Dems willing to hammer Easley out of office, and lose the Manse d'Guv, in order to try to turn NC BLUE? There is no other way they can make the economic issue stick.