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Eric Cantor in Raleigh to raise cash for Congresswoman Renee Ellmers

U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is known for his red meat conservatism in Congress, so he's visiting the right place when he travels today to Raleigh.

Cantor, a Virginia Republican, is helping host a fundraiser for N.C. Congresswoman Renee Ellmers at Angus Barn, a mecca for red meat -- actual meat, not just the oratorical kind -- in the capital city.

The 5 p.m. event costs between $150 and $2,500 to attend, according to an invitation posted on a local conservative blog. The fundraiser is the second in a week for Ellmers  that featured a prominent Republican congressional leader. House Speaker John Boehner was expected at a Nov. 16 Ellmers fundraiser in Washington.

Ellmers' supporters see the moves as indication of her rising star power in Congress, while Democrats believe the big money raising suggests she'll need help in the next election.

N.C. congressmen take prominent role in deficit deal

In today's Charlotte Observer, Jim Morrill takes a look at two N.C. congressmen and their different approaches to the deficit impasse:

"When hope still ran strong for a colossal deficit deal, two N.C. congressmen from neighboring districts emerged as leaders of efforts that squeezed negotiators - from opposite sides.

Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler of Haywood County helped pull together a bipartisan group of 102 House members asking the supercommittee to keep all options on the table, including new revenue.

And Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of Cherryville led 72 House Republicans in urging the panel not to raise taxes.

The issue thrust North Carolina's youngest House members into the spotlight, though they've approached it different ways."

Read the full story here.

N.C. congressional delegation splits on balanced budget amendment

The N.C. congressional delegation overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget with three conservative Democrats joining their Republican cohort.

The House vote 261-165 failed to earn the two-thirds voted needed for passage. (Read more here.) Twenty-five Democrats joined the Republicans in supporting the measure including North Carolina Reps. Heath Shuler, Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell.

Other supporters included Republican Reps. Howard Coble, Renee Ellmers, Virginia Foxx, Walter Jones, Patrick McHenry and Sue Myrick.

"A balanced budget amendment is a simple and commonsense step to address the exploding national debt and runaway government spending," Foxx said in a statement. "It already works for the 49 states that have a balance budget amendment and it’s time it worked for a federal government awash in red ink."

Rep. Brad Miller, a Raleigh Democrat who voted against the amendment, called the vote a "PR gimmick" in a statement. "The Constitution gives Congress the power to do its job, and that’s what we need to do. We should make the hard decisions it will take to rein in the budget deficit," he said. Fellow Democrat David Price spoke about his opposition on the House floor -- watch a video of his remarks here.

In addition to Miller and Price, Democratic Reps. G.K. Butterfield and Mel Watt also cast "no" votes.

Ellmers hosts D.C. fundraiser tonight featuring Speaker Boehner

As noted by POLITICO, U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers is hosting a fundraiser tonight featuring House Speaker John Boehner. The "star power" suggests a good turnout for the event, which costs between $500 and $2,500 to attend. The speaker's presence is further indication that Ellmers, a Dunn freshman, is emerging as a rising GOP leader.

Members of the North Carolina GOP delegation, led by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, is expected to join Ellmers, who represents the 2nd District. 

Blue Dog Democrats are a fading breed

WASHINGTON -- Republicans have listed North Carolina's Blue Dog Democrats as an endangered species, but U.S. Reps. Heath Shuler and Mike McIntyre say they have some bite left in them.

Under the GOP redistricting plan approved earlier this month by the U.S. Justice Department, the two moderate Democrats are on the shortlists of most vulnerable members of Congress in the 2012 elections. The Republicans, who refer to the pair as "Obama's lapdogs," are investing heavily in the races and see North Carolina as ground zero in their efforts to increase their House majority.

Rep. Larry Kissell, who represents Charlotte and Concord, is not an official Blue Dog, but is often associated with the group and votes along the same lines on fiscal issues.

A loss by any of the three would be further deterioration of the conservative Southern wing of the national Democratic Party, as the moderates in each party are being driven toward extinction. The once powerful coalition is down to 26 members and stands to be cut in half again in 2012. So far, four members have announced they will not run for office again. Read Franco Ordonez's full analysis.

GOP candidate for Secretary of State

He's been on so many ballots, you might recognize his name.

Republican Greg Dority, who has run for Congress three times in the last decade, is back in politics with a statewide race for Secretary of State. He wants to challenge incumbent Democrat Elaine Marshall.

"I feel like it's the right race to be in at this time," Dority said. Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory is the unannounced Republican candidate for governor, and Dority, who is from Washington, N.C. says it's important to have an eastern candidate on the statewide ticket.

Dority ran for Congress in the 12th District against Democratic incumbent Mel Watt of Charlotte in 2010, and in the 1st District in 2002 against Democrat Frank Ballance and in 2004 against Democratic U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield.

Marshall does a good job with administration, Dority said, but the office can be "more proactive in trying to attract jobs to North Carolina."

GOP congressional delegation backs McCrory for governor

Pat McCrory's campaign announced today that the entire Republican congressional delegation is supporting the former Charlotte mayor's bid for governor.

Led by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, the delegation's endorsement helps dispel the notion of a GOP challenger. The names of a number of top Republicans have floated through political circles lately, from Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler to state Sen. Pete Brunstetter. Neither is expected to run.

McCrory is expected to make a formal announcement about his rematch bid against Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue in early 2012. But he already is busy raising money, making the rounds with Raleigh supporters and media today.

Was Perdue joking? You decide. Listen here.

UPDATED: Gov. Bev Perdue's off-the-cuff remark about suspending Congressional elections to focus on the economy went viral. Her aides tried to walk it back, calling it "hyperbole" and suggesting she was joking. 

Was she? You decide. Listen to the audio file here.

As background, her remarks came during a Q&A at the Cary Rotary Club meeting. A man in the audience asked Perdue what she can do to turn around the economy. (The question is not included on the tape because I didn't flick my recorder on quickly enough.) 

It led to a rambling 2-minute-and-25 second answer she surely now regrets.

Soon after it was posted, reactions came streaming in. Here's the official line from N.C. Republican Party spokesman Rob Lockwood:

 

“Listen to the Governor’s words, she wasn’t joking at all. The Congressional Democrats are wildly unpopular in North Carolina, so she may have been trying to invent a solution to save their jobs from public accountability.”

"If it was a joke, what was the set-up? What was the punch-line? Where was the pause for laughter? It took them hours to say it was a ‘joke,’ but when that flopped, it became ‘hyperbole.’ We’ll just call it an unconstitutionally bad-idea.”

Perdue jokes about suspending Congressional elections for two years

UPDATED: File this in the random-things-politicians-say file.

Speaking to a Cary Rotary Club today, N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue suggested suspending Congressional elections for two years so that Congress can focus on economic recovery and not the next election.

"I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won't hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that," Perdue said. "You want people who don't worry about the next election."

The comment -- which came during a discussion of the economy -- perked more than a few ears. It's unclear whether Perdue, a Democrat, is serious -- but her tone was level and she asked others to support her on the idea.

Later Tuesday afternoon, Perdue's office clarified the remarks: "Come on," said spokeswoman Chris Mackey in a statement. "Gov. Perdue was obviously using hyperbole to highlight what we can all agree is a serious problem: Washington politicians who focus on their own election instead of what’s best for the people they serve."

Ellmers forms a leadership PAC

Congresswoman Renee Ellmers is just a freshman in Washington but she's looking to increase her clout with the formation of a new leadership political action committee.

Dubbed "Conservatives Restoring Excellence," the Raleigh-based PAC filed papers with the Federal Election Commission on Sept. 15. The treasurer is listed as Collin McMichael, who runs his own political shop at CM&Co. The new committee will allow her to raise $5,000 contributions and donate money to like-minded causes and candidates, who are likely to return the favor.

A leadership PAC is not typical for a Capitol Hill newbie. But it's part of the Dunn Republican's effort to distinguish herself as a leading voice. (Call it The New York Times effect: a profile -- even if it appeared on A14 -- gave her a national platform). 

A University of Minnesota study released Monday found that Ellmers was the 13th most quoted first-term lawmaker -- and the third highest-ranking woman -- out of 94 freshmen in Congress.

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