Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

Keeping a close eye on developments in the 2008 U.S. Senate races

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

NC-Sen: Introducing Grier Martin

North Carolina's senior (though freshman) Senator, Elizabeth Dole, is vulnerable. Last November, Survey USA put Dole's approval-disapproval at 52-40. Just last month, the North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling put Dole's approval-disapproval at an even more vulnerable 48-41. Dole's meager approval ratings may be due, in no small part, to her reputation of being more concerned with political goingson in Washington D.C. than with constituent concerns in North Carolina. In fact, it's a bit of a stretch to say that Dole really even lives in North Carolina.

Beyond that, Dole has a Presidential Support Score of 90%, meaning she agrees with George W. Bush 9 out of every 10 times. Last November, Survey USA put Bush's approval-disapproval in North Carolina at 43-55. Just last month, Public Policy Polling put Bush's approval-disapproval at a similarly weak 41-55. Agreeing with Bush nine out of every ten times when only four out of ten North Carolinians approve of Bush puts Dole pretty well out-of-step with her constituents. Dole also has a terrible record when it comes to working families and veterans.

Dole's record does not warrant a second term representing North Carolina in the U.S. Senate. So who do the Democrats have to challenge Dole? Decisions not to run for Senate have been made by a few North Carolina politicians, most notably Governor Mike Easley and Congressman Brad Miller. Lieutenant Governor Beverly Purdue and state Treasurer Richard Moore are running for Governor in 2008 to succeed the term-limited Easley. Who, then, can step up and challenge Dole, offering not just a competitive race but a real chance to win election to the U.S. Senate?

State Representative and Army Reserve Major Grier Martin can both defeat Elizabeth Dole on Election Day 2008 and effectively represent North Carolina in the U.S. Senate.

So, who is Grier Martin? Grier Martin is somebody committed to public service - his campaign website, in fact, touts the mantra "a tradition of service." Martin graduated from North Carolina's Davison College in 1991 and went on to earn a J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1995. He worked as an attorney for several years. However, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Martin volunteered for active duty in the military and was deployed to Afghanistan. He currently holds the rank of Major. Following Martin's return from Afghanistan, he made his first run for public office in 2004, successfully unseating incumbent Republican State Representative Don Munford.

Martin won a second term in 2006 and currently serves as Chairman of the Homeland Security, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee. Martin's expertise on homeland security and military matters is especially valuable from a political standpoint given how vulnerable Elizabeth Dole is perceived to be on all things Iraq, as she "has been one of President Bush’s most stubborn supporters of the war."

With Republican corruption and environmental issues both salient in the 2008 elections, this passage from the 2006 North Carolina Voter Guide offers Martin's expertise in these areas:

Grier believes the people of North Carolina deserve an ethical government that works for them, not for special interests. As a proud member of the House Select Committee on Ethics and Government Reform, Grier co-sponsored a lobby reform bill that brings more accountability and transparency to government.

As a North Carolina native, Grier appreciates the high standard of living we sometimes take for granted. He was a primary sponsor for the Drinking Water Reservoir Protection Act, which allows the state to monitor local lakes to prevent pollution and improve the safety of our drinking water. He also introduced the Schoolchildren's Health Act, demanding higher health standards in schools to protect our children.
Further shoring up his policy bona fides are various awards he has won during his time in the North Carolina General Assembly, including the Disabled American Veterans of North Carolina "Legislator of the Year" award, the Pesticide Education Project's "Legislative Leadership" award, and recognition as a "Freshman of the Year" by the Conservation Council of North Carolina.

Grier Martin is clearly accomplished. But can he beat Liddy Dole? The answer is yes. Look at this compilation of poll results matching up various North Carolina Democrats against Dole.

Potential ChallengerDoleDemocratGap
Governor Mike Easley4144-3
State Representative Grier Martin43376
Lieutenant Governor Beverly Purdue46379
State Attorney General Roy Cooper463610
Congressman Brad Miller443311
State Treasurer Richard Moore453411
NC-Dems Chairman Jerry Meek473215
State Senator Kay Hagan432716
County Commissioner Ted Kaplan472819

Only Governor Easley fares better against Dole than State Representative Martin does, who holds Dole to under 45% and starts off within six points of Dole despite what must be a significant name recognition disadvantage. (To further hammer the point about Dole's vulnerability, she does not exceed 50% against any potential Democratic opponent.) Offering only a sparse introduction of Grier Martin as a “37 year-old two-term legislator” and “veteran of the War in Afghanistan,” the poll results demonstrate that Martin can indeed run competitively with Dole. And as Martin is ostensibly only well-known to his state legislative district, he has tremendous upside once he increases his name recognition around the state.

But Dole should be able to out-fundraise Martin, right? Well, probably. But is that such a big factor? Look at these four examples from the 2006 election cycle.

RaceGOP Incumbent SpentDem Challenger SpentMargin Outspent% Dem Was Outspent
MO – Talent v. McCaskill$19.4 million$8.5 million$10.9 million128%
MT – Burns v. Tester$7.5 million$3.8 million$3.7 million97%
PA – Santorum v. Casey$24.1 million$13.7 million$10.4 million76%
VA – Allen v. Webb$13.4 million$4.2 million$9.2 million219%

Incumbent Republican Senators significantly outraised their Democratic challengers and still lost. Meanwhile, Liddy Dole isn't exactly the fundraising juggernaut she may be reported to be. At the close of June 2007, the end of the second fundraising quarter of the year, Dole had only $1.76 million cash on hand. Further, Dole's Q2 take, $823,000, was less than half of her Q1 take of $1.7 million. It is not a good sign to have such a precipitous drop in fundraising from one quarter to the next, especially considering that she has consistently fallen well short of her $1 million per month fundraising goal announced in January.

And she probably won't be able to expect much in the way of financial assistance from national Republicans, as the NRSC continues to get thumped by the DSCC in the fundraising department (while the NRSC has far more defense to play than the DSCC to begin with), and as she probably did herself no favors in the chit-collecting department during her abysmal tenure as NRSC Chair. While Dole would likely out-fundraise Martin, judging by precedent Martin could probably get away with raising only half of what Dole raised and still run a potentially victorious campaign.

Best of all, Martin is giving careful consideration to a Senate bid right now. With enough encouragement, Martin could soon enter the race. And for what it's worth, Martin has also actively reached out to the North Carolina netroots and earned its support.

While Liddy Dole will use North Carolina veterans and families as props in her re-election campaign, Grier Martin is the real deal. Grier Martin can defeat Elizabeth Dole and honorably serve North Carolina in the U.S. Senate as he already has in the military and in the North Carolina General Assembly.


Blogger VA Blogger said...

While PPP's numbers on approval ratings for Dole and Bush are reliable, there's no way anyone should trust their polling numbers. Instead of asking a ballot test, they give biographical information about each candidate before asking the respondent to choose. No other polling firm does this, for very good reason. This is on top of the fact that PPP is an IVR polling firm, which means (like SurveyUSA and Rasmussen) its numbers should always be held with a grain of salt.

When I see a legitimate independent poll out of North Carolina that shows Dole's numbers that low and Martin's numbers that high, I'll believe it.

8:57 AM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger Johnny C said...


You have made this point before. You are right that an informed ballot question does not give an accurate reflection of the horse race. But, it is still valuable. In particular it shows potential for growth and it shows that if Martin can get his Bio out there that North Carolina voters are ready to respond to it. Of course that is a big if requiring a good campaign and we all know that Dole will also try to define Martin negatively which may hurt his efforts to define himself.

In short this is not a snapshot of the horse race but it does show that Dole is vulnerable. Of course not every vulnerable incumbent losses or even ends up in a close race but the fact that Dole is even vulnerable in North Carolina speaks to the changing nature of the political map for 2008 and those changes, at the moment, all seem to favour Democrats.

10:43 AM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger VA Blogger said...

I've never argued that Dole wasn't vulnerable--in fact I've argued the opposite many times. But to flash PPP's polling and say that Martin has already counteracted Dole's name ID advantage is just flat-out wrong.

1:08 PM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger Lex said...

I also wonder whether some people responding are thinking of his father, also named Grier Martin, who ran for U.S. House in '84 and '86 and later worked for the UNC system.

1:14 PM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger Johnny C said...

Va Blogger,

Fair enough. I just don't read the original post the way you do. I did not understand the Guru to say that Martin had already wiped out Dole's name rec advantage: just that he was a promising potential candidate.


You may be right but then again those same people may make the same mistake in the voting booth. There are lots of examples of a candidate being helped by a family name due to goodwill built up by a father or mother who held office. (See Bob Casey and Kean in NJ even though Kean did not win)

1:30 PM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger stomv said...

Minor correction:

He graduated from Davidson, not Davison.

4:53 PM, September 10, 2007  
Blogger DrFrankLives said...

His father goes by D.G.

11:51 AM, September 13, 2007  

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