Crashing Google: What Republicans think happened in North Carolina

by | Nov 24, 2014 | 2014 Elections, Editor's Blog | 13 comments

While Democrats like me are pontificating about why Democrats lost and what they need to do to win in the future, Republicans have their own ideas about what happened. Democrats would be wise to listen.

In North Carolina, the GOP says, Democrats made three major mistakes. They ran misleading ads on three issues central to their message and got called on it. In essence, Republicans believe that Democrats lost credibility with the voters and the internet, as much as the Republican counter ads, drove the point home.

Last summer, Democrats began saying that Republicans, and Thom Tillis in particular, cut education by $500 million. The GOP says that wasn’t true and the fact checkers both in the North Carolina and nationally said the charge was at least partially false. As early as June, Politifact rated it half true and fact checks all the way into October found the same thing.

The GOP also says Democrats misled the public on the coal ash spill by saying Republicans would pass the cost on to rate payers instead of shareholders. Mark Binker at WRAL found the claims to be dubious at best and outright false in one instance. Time Warner even pulled one ad from the air.

Finally, Republicans say Democrats’ claim that the GOP raised taxes on 80% of North Carolinians was false. They say that workers had to look no further than their paychecks to see that wasn’t true. Again, both local and national fact checkers found the claim to be untrue.

Democrats obviously didn’t care much what the fact checkers said. They kept running the ads with the same messages despite the findings of the news organizations. They probably assumed that only political junkies were reading the fact checkers and that it was more food for twitter than the general public.

Republicans, however, think something different transpired. They believe that when swing voters started tuning into the election in mid to late October, they went to the internet, not the ads, to get their information. When they checked on the Democrats’ central messages, they found that independent news organizations said they were false or, at least, misleading.

This theory jibes with the changing manner in which people are gathering and consuming information. In the Walmart Moms focus group in Charlotte in mid October, a group of mainly undecided women voters knew very little about either Thom Tillis or Kay Hagan despite almost $100 million in ads. Several women said they would go online to learn more about the candidates before they voted.

Pollster Neil Newhouse, who conducts the Walmart Moms focus groups, jokingly tweeted that the women would “crash Google” trying to figure out for whom to vote. However, Republicans in North Carolina believe that’s what happened. They may be right and, if they weren’t, they almost certainly will be in the near future.

At a panel discussion at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy this weekend, journalists Molly Ball of The Atlantic, Brian Stelter of CNN and Nate Silver of agreed that more people are getting their political information from the web than from traditional sources of media. While television may still be the dominant vehicle for delivering political ads, the internet is the tool for quickly and easily assessing their veracity. The fact check that used to be a one-day blurb in the print edition of a newspaper is now a permanent fixture on Google and other search engines.

Republicans in North Carolina believe that information readily available on the internet delivered a solid blow to Democrats who seemed to be leading up until the final week or so of the election. Democrats might not agree, but the Republican premise is certainly plausible. Whether the GOP is right or not, both parties need to better understand the power of the internet and how easy access to information is changing voters’ behavior and the political landscape.


  1. Alcinda

    Facts aren’t always necessarily truth, but they are facts.

    Really??? Wow…..I’ve always though a fact wasn’t a fact unless it was true!!!

    This from Miriam Webster Online Dictionary:
    fact noun \ˈfakt\ : something that truly exists or happens : something that has actual existence

    : a true piece of information

    I don’t know all the numbers, but I do know that, in the form of increased sales tax, our taxes WERE raised, regardless of what the “fact checkers” say. Go shopping….look at your receipt.

  2. cosmicjanitor

    Just like in Wisconsin when Scott Walker won his recall election and the vote tally against him was less than the number of signatures on the recall petition, the same people in Wisconsin who handled the original vote tabulation handled the recall count as well. Republican owned tabulation machines count the votes in North Carolina with no verifiable paper trail ….period!

    • cosmicjanitor

      NC. exit polls showed that 64% of the people who cast ballots in tis last election favored raising the minimum wage; even given that the poll had a 10% margin of error, or even more for voters missed, we would have to assume that more than 10% of the voters who voted for a minimum wage increase then went ahead and voted for a republican senatorial candidate who opposed raising the minimum wage. What we have consistently seen over the last several elections both nationally and statewide are results that neither accurately reflect the overwhelming sentiment of the voters at that time nor results that are supported by the exit polls – and that spells vote tabulation fraud, which has been shown to be easily managed on electronic machines.

  3. Blake Price

    This is such nonsense. If you don’t believe that Republicans cut school funding, just ask each individual school system. If you think that Duke won’t pass on the cleanup costs to customers, just stand back and watch. If you don’t think my taxes went up, just multiply my wife’s small business tax by 0% for last year and by 5% this year and see which is higher. Democrats lost because they lie too much and Republicans are the truth tellers? What alternate universe do you live in?

  4. Mick

    srshelley Yes, there were one too many untruths carried inDem ads. But as WaFranklin earlier noted, “And, as for Democrats “lying” – wow – Republicans do nothing but, hourly, daily, weekly, etc. But, they just drop the lie as they are caught and tell three more.”

    The ads used by GOPs went beyond just getting a fact or two incorrect. In fact, many didn’t even bother to note a “fact” that might be fact-checked. Rather, their ads were the purest forms of swill and propaganda–attacking their opponents personally with innuendo and aspersions.

    Chad Barefoot’s ad which showed a professional actor (but actually labeled on the TV screen with the name of his opponent’s husband) playing the part of a seedy and greedy cigar-smoking lobbyist showed just how far the GOP/TP candidate will go.

  5. srshelley

    I hope you Democrats do not listen to this editor. Most of your ads were untrue and the public knew it so they did not vote for you. Please use the same strategy in 2016.

  6. Paul Shannon

    Thomas – Vernon Robinson and WA Franklin make good point. I’m curious re your thoughts.

  7. Vernon Robinson

    The fact is that Tillis got a lower percentage of the white vote than Romney did and Democrats achieved and exceeded the black % of the total vote that they wanted (they wanted 20% they got 21%). Thom Tillis was elected to the Senate because the Draft Ben Carson for President Committee spent $321K in radio ads on black radio and moved Tillis’ black voter support 11% in eight weeks.

  8. jweaksnc

    Not a message democrats want to hear. I hope democrats don’t listen… full speed ahead!

  9. Troy

    The key here is, factual. Facts aren’t always necessarily truth, but they are facts. If you can’t put on paper that this legislature cut educational funding $500 million, then you shouldn’t say that. And I don’t mean put it on paper using creative math, averaging, or anything else except simple addition and subtraction.

    Plain talk is easily understood. Democrats try to inform using statistics, Republicans try to confuse with the same tactic. In the first instance, not everyone is an economist nor has a relevant education in statistics and statistical analysis. In the second, Republicans think they can skew numbers to their side of the Bell curve and then use central tendency (averaging) to show gains and progress and why their policies are working. If you don’t understand what you’re looking at, it’s readily digestable as truth. Since there are all kinds of ‘truth’ and in that instance it happens to be a mathematical truth. It certainly isn’t a fact, contrasted against the numbers of lay-offs of teacher assistants, faculty down-sizing, and increased student populations in the classroom. Then you add school vouchers to the plan and you can show sustained or perhaps even a slight increase in funding. You could hear the evidence of this in the Republican counter to the teacher pay ads touting a 7% average salary increase. Most people didn’t hear that word, they locked onto the 7% hook.

    Thomas has a very valid point. However, it would behoove Democrats not to be baited into playing perpetual defense. When they bring an ad to the fore, they need to be plain and accurate. While many of the ads that ran were not funded by either campaign, it would likewise be kudos to that campaign to disavow any ad that is not forthright in their information presented. True, you might not win, which isn’t any different from now, but at least you were truthful and the people will recognize that.

  10. Mick

    Thomas, your point on expanding use of the internet by voters is right on, as is the point about sloppy and careless messaging by Dem candidates. It seemed to me that the half truth ads were mostly funded by the external Big Money groups, and the actual Dem candidates just let it happen. Sarah Crawford got tarred when one of those outside funded groups claimed that the public would pay for the Dan River spill when in fact Duke-E was paying (the spill costs differ from the entire remediation costs). She ran with that claim and was called on it.

  11. lily

    Is this guy for real. He sites political fact etc, but fails to disclose the entire and full findings. 500 million may have been high, actually it was close to 300 million/biggest cuts to the community colleges. There is more involved here.
    Democrats made mistakes, no doubt of that, but to imply they are a bunch of lairs is really outside the circle of accurate assessment.

  12. wafranklin

    Wow, all in a nutshell, or nut case, just tune into GOP to find all relevant truths. This article again, and again and again ignores the six plus years of Republican tilling of the soil of public opinion and investment of billions, perhaps $3-4 billion, across six of more years which were designed to (1) make government not work and (2) make Obama THE CENTRAL AND ONLY RELEVANT ISSUE! Ignoring this seems to be standard practice for the wonderful pundits and gurus who have so far misled us miserably these past many years. And, if you want to see the Republican game plan (Democrats ignore it), read the 1970 Powell memo on what business needed to do to squash the little people – he was a tobacco lawyer remember – and versed in propaganda, lying and dissembling.

    So, if you accept billions of dollars of propaganda and advertising by the GOP over extended periods, it becomes elevator mood music – which works like crazy. And all our centrist pundits, like this one, seems to want to accept a grossly truncated version of Democratic foibles and tell you to listen to the GOP. But, then, pundits make their living by reinterpreting history and recasting it repetitively, else what would they sell, more tickets to events with Jim Hunt telling ancient history and deploring the “state of education”? And, as for Democrats “lying” – wow – Republicans do nothing but, hourly, daily, weekly, etc. But, they just drop the lie as they are caught and tell three more. So, Democrats are to be “better”, no stupider, and publicly recant. The Republican legislature and McCrony government has so muddled any relevant truths that no one anywhere can make relevant comparisons with the cloudy past. But then, all things GOP must be true, John Hood said so.

Related Posts


Get the latest posts from PoliticsNC delivered right to your inbox!

You have Successfully Subscribed!