Hayes: GOP has outreach to do

Published 1:11 pm Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Staff Writer

CHOCOWINITY — President Barack Obama might inadvertently help the Republican Party win congressional seats this fall, but the GOP still has some trust-building work to do with voters, a conservative activist said late last week.
“The biggest effect on elections this year is Obama,” said Chris Hayes, senior legislative analyst with the John W. Pope Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank in Raleigh.
Though Civitas’ polling shows Obama is becoming less popular with voters in the Old North State, past GOP failures also weigh heavily on voters’ minds, Hayes indicated in remarks to the Down East Republican Club at a local restaurant.
Among those failures were deficit spending and a slow response to Hurricane Katrina — lapses the public hasn’t forgotten, Hayes related.
“They’re not in love with Republicans, they just don’t like Democrats because of Obama,” he said.
A recent Civitas poll showed 70 percent of the statewide respondents disapproved of Obama’s performance as president, according to Hayes, who laid much of the blame for Obama’s poor showing in the poll on the president’s push for health-care reform.
“Obamacare has turned unaffiliated (voters) against the Democrats and against Obama,” Hayes said, referring to a crucial and expanding voting bloc.
This means the GOP might be in position to take majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, and, possibly, the N.C. General Assembly, he told his audience of around 23 guests and members of the club.
Hayes reiterated his organization’s conviction that state House District 6, held by incumbent Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort, is vulnerable to a challenge from Republican opponent Bill Cook, who was part of last Thursday’s gathering.
“I think House 6 right now is the tipping point between who controls the House,” he said.
District 6 encompasses all of Beaufort County and a slice of northeast Pitt County.
Hayes’ point reflected one made by the state House minority leader, Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Wake, who headlined a fundraiser for Cook last month.
Stam called District 6 “a real toss-up,” and added the district would likely be a top priority for the GOP and the Democrats.
A previously reported Civitas poll gave Cook a slight edge over Williams in the district.
Some area Democrats expressed skepticism over that poll, pointing to Williams’ decisive victories over Republican rivals in past elections.
“Strange things do happen, but I just find it hard to believe right now,” Jerry Langley, chairman of the Beaufort County commissioners, said in July.
The Democrats currently have a 68-52 advantage in the House and control the Senate by a 30-20 margin, and Hayes said the GOP needs every win it can get to tip the balance in its favor.
In the final analysis, it all comes down to turnout — which, in this case, turns on which party can pull the most voters in November, Hayes said.
Right now, Democrats are having a tough time getting commitments from first-time voters who went heavily for their party in 2008, and the economy and state budget woes aren’t helping their cause, he said.
Hayes implied it’s Civitas’ job to inform voters about those issues through the entity’s website, newspaper and other means.
“We’re here to try and get the message out about what’s going on in Raleigh,” he said.