Carolina Democracy

Ban Rubber Chicken Dinners?

January 15, 2024 JD Wooten Season 3 Episode 1
Carolina Democracy
Ban Rubber Chicken Dinners?
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy. Today we’re joined by Chaz Beasley, former North Carolina State House Rep. and 2020 candidate for lieutenant governor, for an analysis of the 2022 election.

Contact Us: jd@carolinademocracy.com

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Chaz Beasley: So one of the jokes that I kind of have about some of my fellow progressives and fellow Democrats is that if I could make one wish, I would ban them from going to rubber chicken dinners. You have to go to where your voters are and not where you wish your voters were.

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JD Wooten: Welcome back to Carolina Democracy and happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day everyone. I’m JD Wooten, and for those of you who have been wondering when we were going to start back up, now you have your answer. I originally meant to take a summer break when our download numbers usually drop a bit as people are traveling, vacationing, or otherwise just trying to relax and not think about politics. Well, in that vision of mine, the break was going to end around the same time a major trial I had was scheduled to end. Long story short, the trial got delayed, plus life happens, and before you know it my summer break turned into more of a sabbatical.

Oh well, it was a much-needed rest and recharge, and now I can’t wait to push through the 2024 election cycle trying to connect you with candidates and organizations that need our support. We’ve started recording interviews and lining up still more. I won’t spoil any surprises, but just as in years past, you’ll probably recognize some names immediately and others will be completely new to you, which is great.

Over the years, our audience has grown quite a bit and I’m grateful for every one of you, whether this is the first episode you’ve ever heard or you’re a super fan and past guest who shared with us all about squeezing every last drop out of a cactus, metaphorically. If you don’t get the reference, go check out our old episode titles, you’ll see it. It’s a good one. 

We’ll keep doing the work of finding guests and putting out episodes, but we still need your help to make this work. For our guests, especially the candidate guests, to reach the largest audience possible, we need you to share their episodes. Even if you only share with one other person who actually listens, that doubles our audience immediately. As we continue to grow, these interviews become more and more helpful to those candidates, and it’s all because you shared the episodes. So that’s my challenge to you, every week, find someone new to share the episode with who might be interested and want to listen.

Now, for today’s episode, rather than diving in with a new guest, I thought I’d repackage a powerful and insightful message shared by Chaz Beasley after the 2022 elections. I think his analysis is just as important to keep in mind as we head into 2024 as it was coming off those 2022 elections. You’ve heard parts of this before, and I’ve edited out things that aren’t really relevant any more, like the challenges of only have one  vote to spare in the state house to protect Governor Cooper’s veto. Thanks Tricia. But the important takeaways about meeting voters where they are and speaking to their concerns in a way that resonates with them is as timeless as ever.

So, without further ado, here’s an analysis of the 2022 elections in North Carolina to help us set the stage for 2024. Hope you enjoy.

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JD Wooten: With me today is Chaz Beasley, former North Carolina State Representative and current finance attorney from Charlotte. Welcome, Chaz. 

Chaz Beasley: Hey JD, how's it going? 

JD Wooten: Going great, so glad you could be here today. So let's start with a little political background. You served two terms in the State House representing District 92. Since the focus today is going to be more on an analysis of the 2022 elections, let me ask this, what's a lasting lesson you learned during your legislative campaigns about connecting with and turning out voters?

Chaz Beasley: Well, I think the biggest lesson is that you have to go to where your voters are and not where you wish your voters were. So one of the jokes that I kind of have about some of my fellow progressives and fellow Democrats is that if I could make one wish, I would ban them from going to rubber chicken dinners, because I think that so many of them think that events are the sum total of campaigns. And frankly that goes across the board. But what I started to find when I was running for the North Carolina House was because my was along the edges of Mecklenburg County, a lot of times I would walk into rooms where there was not a single voter who lived in District 92 in the room. And so after a while it just kind of clicked that I can't continue to campaign with only events. Now again, I was joking earlier when I said that I would stop people from going to these events at all. They are very important in a lot of ways, and people can make a lot of really valuable connections at them, but you have to do more than just do those events. I was a big believer in knocking on doors, a big believer in calling people, going to where people were and connecting with them, greeting people at the polls. I think that's all critical and we started that early, so we didn't start knocking on doors in the fall, we started knocking on doors in the spring of our election year. And so that gave us runway to figure out what worked and what didn't. And I think that's going to be critical when it comes to future elections, making sure that we are reaching voters where they are going to them not saying, hey, come to our event, saying, let me go to the voters and talk to them one-on-one. 

JD Wooten: Now in 2020 you ran for Lieutenant Governor . Any lessons learned during that statewide campaign that you think really informed the way you look at the 2022 election results in North Carolina? 

Chaz Beasley: Absolutely. So I think number one, that it's a big state. It's a very, very big state. And it's a very diverse state in a lot of ways. It's diverse racially and ethnically. It's diverse socioeconomically. It's diverse in terms of the fact that you can go from the mountains to the ocean, and that matters when you're driving from one end of the state to the other. And you can easily, easily drive six, seven hours to get to some parts of North Carolina. So I think that it's tremendously critical that we keep that in mind, that political geography is a real thing, and it does matter when you're building out a campaign. The other thing, of course, is that we have to remember, no disrespect to any of your listeners, but as political junkies, we are not the typical person. We're not even the typical voter, all right? We love this stuff. This is like our thing. But for a lot of people, you can't look at them sideways when they say, oh, is there an election going on? And I think sometimes, you know, we as politically engaged people can kind of look at people sideways when they say that they didn't know that there was an election or they didn't realize they got busy or something happened. And I think sometimes we have to extend a little bit of grace to voters and understand that they do have competing priorities and we have to make sure that we are demonstrating the need for them to come out and vote. So those are two things that I think were, you know, tremendously helpful. I say to people all the time that, you know, although I wish that that race had gone differently, I learned a tremendous amount of lessons, and I would not trade those lessons for the world. So I wouldn't change a thing. But I know what I would do in the future, presented with a similar scenario.

JD Wooten: So, shifting to a review of 2022, which is our purpose here today, I understand you've got some ground rules to get going. Why don't you explain this for us? 

Chaz Beasley: Yeah, sure. So I'll just read them off. They're five of them, and I think that they're important to keep in mind when you're trying to decide, okay, how am I going to do an election analysis? 

 So my first rule is that Facebook's not your friend. And what I mean by that is there are a lot of myths that take off on social media immediately after elections. And it's important to remember that a lot of times those ideas are worth exploring, but they may not necessarily be what the data's telling us, or what an analysis would tell us. So I treat those more as hypotheses to be tested rather than things that are definitely, absolute. 

The other point that I bring up in any election analysis is be trendy. In other words, look at how things change over time. Don't just look at one election, compare this election to past elections. Are you seeing things heading in a Democratic direction even though you're losing? Are you seeing things heading in a Republican direction even though you're winning? Those are important to demonstrate. 

The third is a statement that, you know, a lot of people just tell me as a child, if you do what you've always done, you'll have what you've always had. And that is that elections are evolutionary processes. Every election is slightly or significantly different than the last one. So you can't just say, well, this is how elections are run. And you do the exact same thing every election, and that's just how you do it, because chances are, you might end up running a campaign that would win the last election and not this election.

The other one is that everyone will be wrong, but not everyone has to stay wrong. Look, none of us are perfect, and I have not been a perfect candidate. You know, we, we've all had things that we can learn from. Trying to figure out what those things are that you could fix and then fix them. 

And the fifth one is no hard feelings, only hard numbers. The numbers say what they say that can be uncomfortable. There's always something in every single election that as a candidate will make you kind of shift in your seat, or something you're like, man, if I'd have known what I knew now, right? That's an important and a healthy part of the process, so it's key that we don't take it personally when you say you could have done this or you could have done that, or the numbers say this didn't work, because it is very easy to get very protective of our campaigns because we put in a lot of effort. I know you know that firsthand. It's a lot of work to run for office, so you kind of start to look at your campaign as your baby and kind of be a little protective over it. But sometimes you gotta let that go when it comes to election analysis. So those are the five things that I use to guide me when I'm doing any of these reviews and have done these reviews in the past.

JD Wooten: Brilliant, great ground rules. So moving into what 2022 actually looked like, Democrats lost all the statewide races that were on the ballot. Six judicial races in the US Senate race. Lost two seats in both the State Senate and the State House. Democrats fared a little better in the congressional races, but in my mind those were perhaps a little bit outliers under temporary maps as well. But we can talk more about that in a minute. So that said, why don't we talk about some of those myths versus realities that are out there. On the turnout side, one that I've heard, and I know you've talked to this before: we lost in 2022 because Democrats didn't show up.

Chaz Beasley: Yeah, so I think that this is one of those myths that definitely has a kernel truth to it. If you look at turnout among Democrats overall, There wasn't a huge change, actually. If you look at the share of Democrats as a percentage of the electorate there wasn't a huge change. But what you did see was that among key demographics that tend to vote Democratic overwhelmingly, or tend to vote for more progressive-minded candidates, there was a drop off. So you saw that among Black voters. You saw that among Latino voters. You saw that among Millennials and Gen Z-ers. These are electorates that when they come out to vote, they do tend to vote for democratic candidates. But usually the choice that they're making is not whether or not to vote for a Democrat or a Republican. They're usually deciding on whether or not there's something on the ballot for them, or something else is a more of a priority and it's not really a priority to vote and they don't show up. So again, and it goes back to what we were talking about before, remember, we're not the typical voter. We love this stuff. This is our thing. The typical voter has competing priorities, and so we can't fault them for that. We need to make sure that we're understanding and dissecting it. 

JD Wooten: So here's another one: minority and rural Democrat turnout crater. 

Chaz Beasley: Yeah. So among Black voters and among Latino voters, we did see a significant drop. And we have to acknowledge that that was critical. And one of the things that we are also seeing is that among a lot of rural Democrats, particularly rural Black Democrats, turn out numbers have started to go down. Over the past few elections, the trend has generally been that more and more people are showing up to vote. That was really the trend through 2020. You started to see that even in off year where so-called Blue Moon elections, where there isn't a US Senate race on the ballot in North Carolina. That even for those turnout was going up, but that didn't play out this time. So it's very important that we recognize that we're starting to see warning signs and we need to pay close attention to those because they can make a big difference when it comes to what happens in statewide elections in states that are close like ours.

JD Wooten: So final one on the turnout side: we should base our strategy on turning out likely voters. 

Chaz Beasley: So this is one of those myths that I think has a bit of a problem to it. I think that in a lot of ways, likely voter models can be self-fulfilling prophecies. You can tend to invest a lot of resources and time into voters that are likely, and you think they're likely because you say they're likely, and because you invest resources in them, you start to see movement. But they may not necessarily be the most receptive to efforts to actually turn them out. So what do I mean by that? You could be a likely voter and be like, you and me. I don't need any mail in my mailbox. I don't need to see any Facebook ads. I'm showing up, and chances are I'll know exactly who I'm voting for. And chances are my in-laws and my relatives are going to reach out to me and say, Hey, you know, who should I vote for? And I feel like you're probably similar, JD, and that people are probably like, all right, who you vote for JD? Like, tell me like, who should I vote for? And you're like, well, let me bring up my spreadsheet. So again, we're not the typical voter. So it may be that we're spending too much time talking to people that already have that get up and go. We got to acknowledge that, we got to look into that. It may be that some people literally voting is not on their radar. And with a little bit of a nudge, they may actually jump in. 

JD Wooten: All right, now over on the persuasion and performance side, here are a couple others that I think are interesting: the key to victory in every election is persuadable voters. 

Chaz Beasley: Yeah, so I really wanna talk about what persuadable even means because I think it means a lot of different things to different people. If you are persuading someone to show up, and you can pretty much bet that if they show up, they're going to vote for you, that is just as much of an important persuadable method as going to someone who may be on the edge 51 / 49, and they're kind of waffling and they're like, oh, you know, I haven't decided if I'm voting for you or for your opponent. And you give them that nudge and they vote for you. That's also important. You have to do both. But I think that it's important to remember that in North Carolina, we are a tremendously tight state. So maybe if you're talking about a state like Mississippi, for example, where the vote is super polarized, even more polarized in North Carolina, you could persuade everybody that's on that 51 / 49 tipping one way, and it's still not going to be enough to get you over the finish line. But in North Carolina, we are in a game of inches. So if you can pick up a few of those 51 / 49 voters, in some of the rural counties in particular, and then you can actually get some people out who they're not deciding on whether or not they're voting for Cheri Beasley or Ted Budd, they're deciding on whether or not they're voting for Cheri Beasley or they're staying home, or they're going to run this errand, or they got this thing to do. That's just as much a part of the persuadable universe. But I think that we have a lot of people that focus on persuadability as the tippers, the people that are like, ah, I'm not sure. Those are important, but you gotta talk to the other ones too. You gotta talk to the ones who are deciding on whether or not they're jumping in or just staying home. 

JD Wooten: So this one I think is related then: persuasion doesn't matter, demographics is destiny. 

Chaz Beasley: Yeah this is one of those myths that needs to die. It needs to die. You know, we cannot type in numbers into an algorithm and spit out voters, okay? Modeling is helpful. Data analysis, I think we probably need to do more data analysis here in North Carolina in terms of the ability to win, particularly in some of our mid-level races that don't necessarily have the resources that our bigger races have. That being said, and I really wanna emphasize this, how people voted in 2016 is not the same way that those "types," and I hate using that term, but those "types" of people voted in 2020 and those "types" of people will vote in 2024. The whole presumption in that is that people basically vote their demographic. No, they don't. Robeson County Prime example. Robeson County used to be a reliably, overwhelmingly Democratic county. And I'm not talking about, oh, in the, the sweet buy and buy of the 1980s, like I'm talking about like 2016, you know, 2012. I'm talking about when Obama was president, right? Reliably Democratic. Now you're starting to see that county is starting to tip more Republican. But if you were to spit numbers into an algorithm and the numbers would've popped back out, you would say, this doesn't make sense. This doesn't fit the metric. That's why I say, you know, you have to treat voters as though they are in some ways, up for grabs. You gotta do things to keep voters solidly in your corner. You gotta lock down your base and also reach out to those persuadable voters of both types that we were just talking about. 

JD Wooten: I couldn't agree more. This idea that demographics is destiny, I think that if that was true, we'd have gotten there several election cycles ago and we'd be done. So it just kind of disproves itself. All right, final one: messaging explains the difference. 

Chaz Beasley: So this is probably one of the things you're going to see most on social media, right? And rarely do people say, I really wish that my party would message in ways that I disagree with. It's generally people saying people should talk about stuff that I like more. So it's important to remember that messaging a lot of times is the biggest talking point for people, but in a lot of ways, messaging is the hardest thing to quantify. It's hard to really get numbers around it. We can look at exit polling, for example. If you look at the 2022 exit polling, there were two big issues, two big issues in this past election. It was abortion. And it was inflation. Those were the two big ones. So you could say, oh, you know, how was the messaging around abortion? Well, in the US Senate race, messaging around abortion was actually relatively strong. The people who voted in the election and then did exit polling and said what was your most important issue? The ones that said that it was abortion overwhelmingly voted for Cheri Beasley. But the ones that were saying that inflation was their biggest issue overwhelmingly voted for Ted Budd. So you could say, oh, well, maybe the messaging failed on inflation, or you could that maybe people who were predisposed to voting for Ted Budd were more likely to pick up on the inflation issue that was a part of the discussion, right? So those are two different ways of looking at things. But you know, messaging I think is one of those things that we have to acknowledge. It's very difficult to nail down and it's more of the art rather than the science of politics. 

JD Wooten: So turning to the actual numbers and the data, and it might be a tough bill to swallow, but how was the turnout overall in 2022 by party overall demographics. Tell us what story, the numbers share with us.

Chaz Beasley: Yeah, so unfortunately as we were talking about a little bit earlier for a lot of key Democratic demographics, numbers were down. Turnout was down among Black people overall, both Black men and Black women. Black women tend to be a very strong voting block for Democrats. And they tend to vote in really strong numbers. Their numbers were still higher but they did drop by a larger percentage than Black men's numbers. But that's also because they had a bigger number to begin with, so it's important to keep that in mind. I think that one of the really tough numbers that we really have to grapple with is the fact that three out of four registered Latino voters, so these are people that are already eligible to vote. Three out of four of them did not vote in the 2022 general election. And again, as we were talking about before, that can't just be, oh, they're not doing their part. Oh, they're not doing enough. Part of that number has to be engagement. It has to be that we are not doing a good enough job getting Latino voters engaged enough to show up to vote, and also recognizing the fact that Latinos are a very diverse group of very different voting patterns. Most Latinos in North Carolina come from a Mexican or Mexican American background. But that doesn't change the fact that there's still a large cross-section of other people from other Latino countries and also Puerto Rico that are in North Carolina. We gotta figure out how we can do a better job of engaging them, talking to them, making sure that they're being brought into the fold because 26% turnout that is an unacceptably low number. And of course we also have to look at the fact that in a lot of areas the number of Gen Zers that voted were down. And the number of Millennial voters were much smaller than you would expect. So those are just a few examples of voting demographics, of voting groups, that tend to vote Democratic, just did have the numbers that you would want to see in North Carolina if you're a US Senate candidate like Cheri Beasley.

JD Wooten: Right. And going back to one of your rules, looking at the trends, I think for the Latino vote that group was well over a third, maybe approaching 40% turnout in the last midterm 2018, I believe. And so definitely heading the wrong direction. 

Chaz Beasley: Right, right, right. and I just wanna reiterate this cause I think it's a very important point. We cannot look at numbers like that and say, why didn't they, once you start saying, why didn't they, you've already started to kind of offload some of the responsibility on a big group of people who have many different reasons why they do or do not vote. So I think that instead of, you know, kind of going down the why didn't they route, we should start saying, what about what we are doing is not resonating with this group, that group? And we might find that sometimes we're actually doing a better job because again, the trend is headed the right direction. It's just their numbers are still small and they're going up, but that's not what we're seeing in the data for 2022. 

JD Wooten: So I do wanna dig in a little bit more on the generational thing because I do think this is fascinating. I've read a lot lately about how historically, one would expect voter patterns to shift a little over time. As people get older, they tend to vote a little bit more conservatively. There seems to be a lot of talk right now, and I don't know if it'll play out, that may or may not really be happening for millennials. But we've also got this turnout problem, so it's like great. We're back to that persuasion, but it's not persuading them to vote on the progressive agenda. It's persuading them to show up and, you know, I think it's too early really to know about Gen Z, but what are your thoughts on that with the different millennial cohorts? 

Chaz Beasley: Yeah, I think that it goes back to what we were chatting about a little bit earlier. Persuasion is very different when you're talking about a group that's deciding whether they can be persuade to vote to begin with. I saw a similar article, probably the exact same article you saw where they were talking about how there's that old myth that I forgot the saying, but the young person who votes progressive you know has a heart, and an old person that votes conservative, has a brain or something like that. It's some kinda saying like that, I've heard it before and if I butchered it, don't, don't post on Twitter. I'm, I'm working off a memory here. But you know, we're not seeing that show up in the data, and I think part of that is because other generations did not come of political age in a polarized era. If you look at the greatest generation, for example, a lot of them voted across party. But at the same time, a lot of people in the greatest generation, my grandmother's a prime example, my great-grandmother who just passed away a couple years ago. She was 44 when the Civil Rights Act was passed. So she was literally older than me when she got the right to vote. So that meant that polarization did not have the same play, but it also meant there were a lot of people that just weren't even in the tent to vote. So that changed things. And you've seen as more and more generations have gotten older and older, more and more of them have started to come of age in a super polarized environment where there are a lot of different competing interests and where there are a lot of very clear lines between the parties. there are many criticisms that can be leveled at people who are politically engaged. One of the ones that drives me crazy, absolutely crazy, is when people are like, there's no difference between the parties. Really? Come on. There's huge differences between the parties, and I think that even if you don't think that's a good thing, you gotta at least admit there's a big difference. You know, you're not getting Coke or Pepsi, you know you're getting, two pretty big differences. So you know, I think that that's important to realize and recognize. So I do think that given the, the big differences between the parties, you're probably going to see that there will continue to a big difference between whether or not people who are Millennials or Gen Zers are voting or staying home. That's going to be the ballgame. It's not going to be, am I voting for Ted Budd, or am I voting for Cheri Beasley? That's not going to be the ballgame. It's going to be showing up to begin with. 

JD Wooten: All right, so turnout, we know the takeaways, we've talked to this, turnout was down in 2022 as compared to 2018. We know that the Black and Latino turnout is a little bit of a cause for concern as we're looking back on those trends, keeping to that. Anything else on the turnout side you want to address before we turn to the persuasion performance numbers and how we saw that play.

Chaz Beasley: Yeah, I think that it's going to be really important to keep in mind that one election does not a trend to make, right? This could be something where in 2024 you start to continue to see that upward trend. But that's the reason why you do election analysis because then you have in your head, all right, this is something I need to be on it look out for. I need to keep an eye on this in 2024, so that you don't get caught napping.

JD Wooten: Like happened in 2010. That was a rough year to be napping. 

Chaz Beasley: Right, right. 

JD Wooten: All right, so shifting to persuasion and performance takeaways, let's compare the last two midterms. Why don't you set the stage for us in terms of who was at the top of the ticket, what kind of money was spent on these races, votes cast, that kind of thing.

Chaz Beasley: Yeah, so as many of you probably know Cheri Beasley, a Black female jurist, very accomplished, very sharp, was running against Ted Budd who has been in Congress for a couple terms, and Ted Budd won. The big story of course in every election is how much money is being spent, in North Carolina there is a lot of money being spent. And you saw in particular a big fundraising advantage for Cheri Beasley's campaign over Ted Budd's campaign, but the difference was made up by outside spending, not only on behalf of Ted Budd, but in particular against Cheri Beasley. There were millions of dollars pumped into North Carolina that were basically spent just to knock Cheri Beasley down in peg. And before anybody asks, no, I'm not related to Cheri Beasley. I get that question a lot. No, we're not related. The spending was done to try to knock her down a peg. But what you saw in the exit polls was that really voters liked her and they liked Ted Budd. The negative spending actually didn't hurt her favorability numbers. They didn't make people think that she was extreme, and it showed up in the exit polling. So that's always a big question of course that a lot of people ask. And so, you know, that was big. And the other thing of course was, you know, what were the big issues? We talked about this before, the ballgame was abortion, inflation. Over 60% of exit poll respondents said those two were the most important issues to them. We saw on Fox News that there was a lot of discussion about crime. Of course, public safety, something that we need to talk about. That's something that, you know, we need to have a plan for. But voters did not rate it as their top issue. And again, just tell you what the numbers say. It just did not play out. It was inflation, it was abortion. That was the ball game. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, and you mentioned the impact of negative ads. Now negative ads are not going anywhere because at the end of the day, somebody's decided that they work or have enough value, and that's just the part of the game right now that we live with. But taking that assumption and going to the next step, I'm sure you've been on, on these conversations and campaign strategy meetings, I know I have, when you run a negative ad and you design a negative ad campaign, you're taking a couple risks. One risk is are you wasting money on a negative line of attack that just doesn't stick? If you try and go after somebody on a line of attack that just doesn't resonate or doesn't stick because it's too audacious, too ridiculous, does it lack credibility? That's just a lot of money down the tube. And I think we saw some of that with Cheri Beasley in terms of what you're talking about, that exit polling, it just didn't stick. and then the other risk you take is if you go too far overboard, it blows back on you. You know, and sometimes that can happen in a hard way. And I don't know that we saw enough of that blow back. And I fear that as we becoming more and more polarized, and everybody retreats to your corners, there's less of that blow back that there used to be. I believe the human emotion that we associate with that is shame, and it feels like one side of the aisle... 

Chaz Beasley: Mm-hmm. 

JD Wooten: maybe doesn't trade in shame quite the way the other side does anymore, so...

Chaz Beasley: Yeah, for sure. I think the other piece, of course, is when it comes to negative campaigning to your point about how it has to kind of fit, it has to kind of make sense. I think that, and I'll speak to the Republican side of your audience, which I'm sure is huge. The ad with the guy with the deep voice talking about how such and such is a liberal. I mean, they run the ads against Joe Manchin talking about how he's a liberal, right? You know, at some point those ads just stop sticking because people have heard it, they hear it about everybody, and if that's the kind of thing that resonates with you, you're probably going to vote for the Republican anyway. But I think to your point, there has just not been a ton of evolution in advertising. I think there's a really tried and true strategy that's being used, and I don't know if it's really working anymore for a lot of campaigns. So, to your point, I think your point is spot on. At some point, these ads have to be rooted in some sort of reality about the person that you're talking about. There's nothing wrong with contrasting, right? There is a real contrast between the parties, as we were talking about before. But if you're just going to, you know, do the negative, you know, the negative ad with the guy in the voiceover saying, you know, with the person in black and white talking about how they're liberal, liberal, liberal. I mean, is that really talking to the voters that we were talking about before that are kind of on the margin? It's probably baked into the cake at this point. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, as you were saying that, sudden flashbacks in my head just hearing it from 2018. Not only the liberal, but you know, you gotta throw in some of that cue alliteration too. Meet liberal lawyer JD Wooten. 

Chaz Beasley: Exactly, exactly. I mean, yeah.

JD Wooten: Yeah, fill in the blank with whatever you want after that. You've made your introduction, now fill the next 28 seconds with whatever. 

Chaz Beasley: It's comical. It's comical. I mean, it's, it's Saturday Night Live level. I mean, it really is. I mean, if you wanted to make it Saturday Night Live skits, and they've done a lot of good ones in the past election cycle about these things. It's becoming a joke to people and there are definitely negative ads that work. Look at what happened in Pennsylvania. Federman and his negative ads say Oz is not Pennsylvanian worked, but it worked because there was a hook, right? There was a basis to run those ads and the basis was the guy still had his address in New Jersey. He was going in the stores and talking about crew dease, right? Like, these are things that are rooted in something that you can play up on. But if they would've just tried to run, you know, ads that had no connection to Dr. Oz at all, might not have been as helpful for Federman. 

JD Wooten: Now, I'm not going to lie, it's not common that you get a candidate on either side of the aisle that is just offering up that much fodder for good social media attacks. That was just, that was just brilliant. I mean, okay, always an important conversation for us to have as Democrats given the way our party has been splitting recently: urban, suburban, and rural, and the turnout, what are we seeing? 

Chaz Beasley: So one of the things that we're starting to see is that in our suburban areas, they're starting to become the battleground in North Carolina. A key distinction here is that while in our urban counties, there generally is one legislator in the House or the Senate that is in the Republican party, for the most part, they're blue. And you're starting to see that it's really those suburban areas within the large urban counties as well as the surrounding counties that are really starting to become the battleground. That being said, rural counties that have large Black populations, particularly along the Virginia border and the South Carolina border, are places where because Black voter's turn out is starting to drop so precipitously that we're starting to get red counties, that again, have blue demographics because demographics is not destiny. So we have to start understanding that if we wanna stop the slide, particularly in those counties, we've got to start investing in them and investing in their candidates early, because a dollar does go a long way there. It's not like in Charlotte, it's not like in Raleigh, where they're in expensive media markets for the state. Not necessarily expensive for the country, but for the state. So the urban rural divide is one of those things that people talk about a lot, but I think it's important to remember that our rural counties are in no way, no way homogenous. They are very different in and of themselves down east counties are very different than rural counties in the Mount West. And we can't treat them the same. So we need to be talking about the urban rural divide. It's important. We also need to be talking about the rural, rural divide. There is some rural areas where we're just not investing in where we could actually make some moves if we invested in them at the right time, got the right candidates that were positioned well, and really didn't just give them up because they're quote unquote rural or they're so-called country, right? That's not the right move. That doesn't do us any favors. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, and I think one of the things that people don't always appreciate immediately is we still have to put investment in these areas despite legislative districts that may feel like foregone conclusions away from us because on the statewide races it can really still matter. So, you know, rural county, could you have found 401 more Democratic votes in 2020? Oh, you could have? Guess what, that would be Chief Justice Cheri Beasley right now. 

Chaz Beasley: Exactly. 

JD Wooten: So one of my favorite topics, the unaffiliateds, cuz of course we've gotta block them all into one behemoth group. Nah, not so much. How about this swing voters or are they behaviorally partisan or some combination? 

Chaz Beasley: Yep. So, you know, this is always a question that people like to bring up. I like to put them into two buckets. You got the free agents, so they're unaffiliated voters, and they are truly open to voting for either party. Or they're secret agents, they are unaffiliated voters, but they vote like Republicans or they vote like Democrats. The fact of the matter is the overwhelming majority of unaffiliated voters are secret agents. If you want to find free agents, you can't just look at unaffiliated voters because again, a lot of the free agents, they're not necessarily coming in and saying, oh, am I going to vote for Ted Budd or Cheri Beasley? They're saying, oh, I'm going to vote, or I'll do it tomorrow, and then tomorrow never comes, right? That's the ballgame just as much. So we've gotta really start to think differently about what persuadability means, and really start to think critically about it, because if we don't, in a state that's so close like ours, it's going to make a difference.

JD Wooten: Absolutely, couldn't agree more, and I think it took a long time for me to appreciate that when somebody's registering unaffiliated, the majority of them, behaviorally, they're going to go one way or the other. Or maybe they're split tickets, you know, maybe the mythical split ticket voter that used to exist in North Carolina. I'm not convinced they're quite as many of them anymore as there used to be. But those unaffiliated as we've gotta be careful on how we treat them as a monolith and understand the differences. So, persuasion and performance takeaways. What do we need to know?

Chaz Beasley: So one thing that we need to keep in mind is that our rural counties with large, sometimes majority Black populations, really going to become more and more important in a state where our urban counties are getting super duper blue, and some of our rural counties that are predominantly white are getting super duper red. That's going to be an important battleground that people are not talking about. They're going to talk about the suburbs, but sometimes they forget about the fact that we have blue rural counties that we need to continue to work on. You did see that the congressional that were in competitive races tended to do better than the US Senate race. But you also saw that the legislative candidates that were competitive races actually tended to underperform the US Senate race. And again, no hard feelings, only hard data. This is just what the numbers are telling us. It's not a criticism of any individual candidates. I know how hard they work, but that's what the numbers demonstrated. For some reason, the legislative races just were not getting the same number of out of these districts as even Cheri Beasley got. And compared to 2020, there was a pretty consistent level of underperformance across the board on the Democratic side. That's something that we have to admit. It's something that we have to dig into, so that we can get more of an understanding of how we can avoid this in 2024 and 2026 in 2028. 

JD Wooten: I don't have any answers to this and I hope somebody is looking at it real hard. As you just alluded to, in 2022, we had a lot of state legislative candidates who did not get anywhere close to either percentage or certainly not in absolute terms, the number of votes as the top of the ticket. In 2020, there were quite a few state legislative candidates who outperformed the top of the ticket, which in a presidential is usually unheard of. So something dramatic changed between 2020 and 2022 when you have state legislative candidates who were on the back of the ballot earning not just percentage more but absolute terms, more votes than the President and the US Senate candidate. And then we're watching this drop down in 2022. There's a story there. I hope somebody figures it out.

Chaz Beasley: Absolutely.

JD Wooten: Any closing thoughts for our listeners today? 

Chaz Beasley: Well, JD, I appreciate you covering this, but it's important to remember that these kind of analyses are not static. We could do this podcast in 2025 and everything could be turned on its head. So you have to continue to dig into numbers. You also have to remember that there are a lot of people that are doing a lot of number crunching that are really good. So I'll give you a shout out to some of the people that I like to follow on Twitter and on the socials, the tell good stories. Dr. Michael Bitzer has great numbers. Two of them people that I'm a huge fan of that are on election Twitter Miles Coleman and Drew Savicki, they have great maps. Also Unite Carolina, great Maps. I follow them because they really do a good job of crunching the numbers. And if anybody has any questions for me, you can hit me up on Twitter. You can hit me up by. I think that we definitely continue to dig into the numbers and continue to listen to the people that are actually doing the work, because there's a lot of really helpful information out there for people.

JD Wooten: Amen to all of that. Well, Chaz, thank you so much for joining us today. It's been a real pleasure. 

Chaz Beasley: Thanks, JD, I appreciate it. I'll talk to you.

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JD Wooten: Thank you again to everyone for listening. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, send me an email at jd@carolinademocracy.com. And as always, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and share this episode with a friend. Together, we can achieve a better North Carolina for everyone!

Introduction
Interview with Chaz Beasley
Closing Notes