The Morning Roundup: Is It Sunday Yet? | News

The Morning Roundup: Is It Sunday Yet?





Greetings, comrades and fellow travelers. Perhaps—but probably not—you, like I, stayed up late (late, at my age, apparently means 11:15) to watch the Democratic tête-à-tête in a little town called Durham … New Hampshire. Who won? you ask. I imagine that depends on which candidate you supported going in. To my mind—which was clouded by the bottle of barley wine I’ll be blogging about later today—Hillary was too aggressive toward the generally likable Bernie, but Bernie came off as a one-trick pony and totally collapsed on foreign policy. And it shouldn’t have taken Hillary 12 years to come up with a good answer on the Iraq vote

Halfway through Thursday's feisty Democratic debate, the conversation turned to ISIS. Bernie Sanders, as he often does, brought up Clinton's vote to authorize the Iraq war in 2002. "Where we have a different background on this issue is we differ on the war in Iraq," he said.

But Clinton was ready with a new rebuttal—and a more effective one: "A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat ISIS."

But you know who really won? Democratic voters, who got to see a substantive, passionate, smartly moderated, mostly respectful debate, which—and YMMV—stood in snark contrast to the content-thin bitch fests the Republicans have been having. Primary debates are a good thing. Which brings us to the Roundup: 

1. Too bad, North Carolina primary voters. No debates for you. At least in the Republican races for governor and U.S. Senate, where Governor Pat McCrory and Senator Richard Burr have both decided that their primary opponents aren’t worth sharing a stage with. Meanwhile, the Dems running for Senate, including long-shot Chris Rey, will have two debates, though perhaps without frontrunner Deborah Ross. In addition, it’s not yet clear whether Attorney General Roy Cooper will see fit to do battle with Durham attorney Ken Spaulding. (I’m guessing not.) 

A telling excerpt: 

Burr’s campaign strategist, Paul Shumaker, said Thursday that he had received no “formal request” from any TV stations wanting to host a Republican Senate debate.

Shumaker provided a Dec. 10 email from Willis in which TWC News asked whether the Burr campaign would “entertain debate invitations for the March 15 primary.” Shumaker’s email reply said the campaign would only consider debates in the general election, explaining that Burr’s opponents hadn’t raised money and “no media source I know has taken them as a credible candidate.”

2. Here are two things they could talk about in those debates they’re not having: This year, according to the federal government, more than 600,000 North Carolinians signed up for health insurance on the ACA exchange. That’s a roughly 25 percent YOY increase, which ain’t bad—and may stanch some of the criticism Obamacare has gotten in recent days in this state. With the influx in customers and the rate hikes the state approved, the insurers shouldn’t find themselves in the red next year. Would the state be better off setting up its own exchange? (Yes.) Would expanding Medicaid take some pressure off the private market? (Almost certainly.) Or is the reflexive hatred of anything associated with Obamacare worth keeping 500,000 residents without health care? (On Jones Street, pretty much.)

Or they could talk about the January jobs report, which showed the national unemployment rate dropping slightly to 4.9 percent and the economy adding 151,000 new jobs—decent, but not great. Most of that growth occurred in the retail and hospitality sectors, BTW. Also, YOY wages are up 2.5 percent, which is better than we’ve been doing. In North Carolina, Laffer economics aside, unemployment remains stubbornly higher than the national average. 

3. Or they could talk about the state’s plan to jack up its employees health care costs. 

Several labor organizers denounced a proposal Thursday to increase health insurance costs for North Carolina state employees at a rally Thursday.

The event came a day after the State Health Plan announced that its trustees would not vote on a more sweeping approach that would eliminate insurance coverage for workers’ spouses.

The protestors gathered before the N.C. state legislature building to criticize a proposal to eliminate health plans with zero monthly premiums, thus increasing annual premiums by $120 to $180 per worker in the first year. They said North Carolina’s public school teachers and employees are among the lowest-paid in the nation and any cost increases would further erode their income.

“This plan is horrible for low-wage workers,” said Larsene Taylor, a health technician at Cherry Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Goldsboro. “You pay more out of pocket for an inferior plan.”

4. Or they could talk about this ridiculous voter ID law that nobody understands

With potentially confusing messages out there about voter ID requirements, the state Board of Elections is out with a new round of public service announcements for TV and radio trying to set the record straight.

When voters show up at their polling place they will be asked for photo identification. If they don’t have any, they will still be allowed to cast provisional ballots.

Those voters will have to declare that there was a “reasonable impediment” to obtaining identification, such as a lack of documentation, family obligations, transportation problems, work schedule, illness or disability.

In other news: 

5. Lots of grocery stores in Cary, for some reason. Cary, which is a place that exists, has 26 major grocery stores, because folks in the burbs—with lots of money and even more kids—love them some grocery stores, and the grocery stores love them back. (Disclosure: My wife and I, being Florida natives, routinely purchase groceries at the Cary Publix, because Publix rules.) 

When Wegmans announced last month that it was in talks to open its first North Carolina store in Cary, it was the supermarket equivalent of the rich getting richer.

Already home to 26 major supermarkets, this western Wake town of roughly 155,000 has become the municipality that seemingly no grocer can resist.

“A lot of times, developers will call me and say they have a site in Cary they want me to look at,” said David Livingston, a Wisconsin-based supermarket analyst who helps grocers identify and evaluate new store locations. “It just seems like that name pops up a lot.”

6. And, finally, this headline: Escaped pig, peacock cause stir in western Wake County

While many were focused on prophetic groundhogs predicting the weather Tuesday, an assortment of other animal oddities kept law enforcement busy in western Wake County.

In Apex a peacock was loose in downtown. In a tweet, Police Chief John Letteney posted a photo of the bird and declared it the “Peacock of Good Living,” a play on the town’s “Peak of Good Living” motto.

The peacock, which local officers apparently know well, later returned to its home. […] 

In Fuquay-Varina, not to be outdone, a black-and-white pig spent Tuesday and Wednesday scampering around several roads, causing police to issue an alert to drivers to be careful not to hit it.

After apprehending the animal, the police began calling it Notorious P.I.G., after another portly outlaw, the late rapper Notorious B.I.G.

And that, friends, is why we don’t allow cops to make #jokes. That’s all for now, folks. We’ll see you Monday (if we’re not so hungover from Super Bowl Sunday that we forget to post this thing on Monday morning). In the meantime, here’s U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers telling you Panther fans to #keeppounding. 

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