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Morning Memo: Tillis dodges shutdown questions; McHenry pressed on Obamacare

TILLIS DODGES GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN QUESTION: Republican Thom Tillis is emphasizing his opposition to the federal health care law in his campaign for the U.S. Senate but at the same time he's avoiding answering some questions on the issue. A Democratic Party operative recently asked the Republican House speaker about whether he agrees with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and others who suggested shutting down government to defund the federal health care law.

While walking to a recent D.C. fundraiser, Tillis didn't offer a direct answer -- even though if elected he may face similar circumstance. "It's not my decision to make but anything we could do to slow down or eliminate Obamacare would be good for the nation," he said in a video posted online. (Watch above.)

Does Tillis agree with North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr that a shutdown is the "dumbest idea" ever? Again no answer. "I'm going to leave that to the duly elected senators but i think we can do to stop Sen. Hagan and President Obama from creating all the uncertainty and cost that comes with Obamacare it would be a good thing," he said. Expect both questions to return soon.

***See the Tillis video below in the Dome Morning Memo, along with another video from Republicans punking people at the "Moral Monday" rally.

Moral Mondays begin dispersing throughout state

Now that the Legislature is out of session and a final "Moral Monday" protest drew a record number of participants this week, organizers plan to spread the even to local communities.

On Aug. 5, a coalition of advocacy groups -- representing environmental, voting rights, health, the elderly, labor, religion and poverty interests -- plan to gather in a downtown Asheville park to keep the party going.

A familiar face at the Raleigh protests, Rev. William Barber II, president of the NAACP state chapter, will speak.

Of the people arrested in the protests in Raleigh, a sizable number were reportedly from Western North Carolina.

Morning Memo: First Lady ventues into policy, TABOR bill gets a hearing

FIRST LADY BACKS BILL TO REGULATE PUPPY MILLS: Venturing into public policy for the first time as First Lady, Ann McCrory issued an open letter to lawmakers supporting House Bill 930 to establish standards for dog breeders. The bill is a weakened version of the original legislation which sought to crack down on puppy mills. "| am writing to thank you for your unanimous support of l-louse Bill 930. Passing legislation to establish basic standards of care for large commercial dog breeding facilities is a very important issue to me, and to people across our state," Ann McCrory wrote in the letter. "| especially wish to Representatives Saine, McGrady and Brown for their leadership on this issue. l hope you and other members of the General Assembly will continue to advocate for this bill, and other legislation establishing higher standards for Commercial breeders. These policies increase our quality of life in North Carolina and ensure better care for dogs across the state. You have my full support."

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: A House committee will consider a Taxpayer Bill of Rights measure, known as TABOR, that would restrict state spending. Its hugely controversial and produced varied results. Other legislative committees will consider trimming environmental regulations and altering rules governing midwifery. On the Senate floor, lawmakers will hear a bill to prevent undercover whistleblower operations at farms and processing plants. And in the House, a bill about cancer drugs that split Republicans faces another vote, as does the LEED certification bill. Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more North Carolina political news below. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

Obama's brings back N.C. ribs

While in Asheville, the staff of President Obama picked up some barbecue from 12 Bones restaurant for the president and his staff to enjoy while flying back to Washington, according to a pool report.

The president and First Lady Michelle Obama ate lunch at the smokehouse restaurant while vacationing in Asheville in 2010. Apparently, the restaurant made a big impression on the president.

The president has arrived in North Carolina

President Barack Obama has arrived in Asheville, where he will tout his initiatives to back manufacturing. His plane touched down about 11:15 after a turbulent flight, according to pool reports.

He will visit the Canadian owned Linamar Factory in Asheville.

Democratic Congressman Mel Watt accompanied the president.

This is his first trip to the state since the Democratic convention in Charlotte in September.

Report: Obama may visit Asheville day after SOTU address

President Barack Obama may visit Asheville the day after his State of the Union address, according to a local media report citing unnamed sources.

The State of the Union address is Tuesday. Obama last visited Asheville in October 2011 as part of a bus tour to promote a plan to boost job growth. A year earlier he vacationed at the Grove Park Inn.

The Asheville ABC affiliate is reporting the news. It says: "As true with any potential official visit, official word comes late and sometimes not at all. Sources also tell News 13 a specific venue has not been determined but should be soon."

Pro-topless group vows to fight the injustice

The pro-topless organization – what, you didn’t know there was such a thing? – that is the target of the bill to ban the public display of female nipples, is vowing to fight back.

GoTopless organized rallies in Asheville the past two years, which prompted Asheville Republican Rep. Tim Moffitt to sponsor legislation clarifying that constitutes a violation of the state’s indecent exposure law. The group says that even if Moffitt’s bill becomes law, it will continue to hold topless rallies.

“Though we’ve explained our viewpoint many times during GoTopless rallies over the last two years, politicians are still missing the entire point,” president Nadine Gray said in a news release Wednesday.

What’s that point?

“Our rallies are aimed at bringing attention to a serious matter of unconstitutional, unequal treatment,” she said.

What’s the unequal treatment?

“In much of the United States, woman are still persecuted or arrested for going topless, while men aren’t.”

If the bill becomes law, Gray said, the rallies will continue to drive home the point that men should be arrested, too.

Jill Biden to campaign in N.C. on Friday

Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, will campaign in Huntersville and Asheville on Friday, the campaign announced.

Her appearance in the state comes one day before the end of early voting. She had been scheduled to campaign in the state Sunday, but cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy.

Morning Roundup: State Supreme Court battle one of top races on ballot

The Republican and Democratic parties are paying particular attention this year to one down ballot race: N.C. Supreme Court. Although judicial elections are officially nonpartisan, there are strong partisan stakes in the outcome of this race. In the balance is the current 4-3 split on the state Supreme Court that currently tips conservative. Incumbent Paul Newby is a registered Republican and challenger Sam "Jimmy" Ervin IV, an appeals court judge, is a Democrat.

The importance of the race is why outside interests have started raising money for their candidate – in this case, Newby – to bolster the limited funds candidates can raise. Both candidates received $240,100 in public financing; Newby has raised about $94,000 from individuals and Ervin about $85,000, in the first half of this year. Read more about the race here.

More political headlines:

--After a week of moves to the middle on taxes, health care and abortion, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney returned to the South on Thursday to reassure conservatives and evangelical Christians that he’s a would-be president they can trust. Romney began his Tar Heel trip – his fifth visit to the state this year – by making a pilgrimage to Montreat to meet and pray with 93-year-old evangelist Billy Graham.

Mitt Romney to campaign in Asheville this week

Republican Mitt Romney is returning to campaign in North Carolina this week.

GOP officials said Monday that Romney will visit Asheville on Thursday. The location is an unlikely stop -- the rural western part of the state and a minor media market -- for the presidential candidate in North Carolina. The Citizen-Times first reported the visit.

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