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Roy Cooper testing waters for 2016 governor's race

Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper has been making calls to supporters testing the waters for a possible bid against Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016, insiders say.

Cooper's calls are described as very preliminary, seeing if the support and money would be there for a possible run. Cooper is said to be angry at the direction of the Republican legislature and McCrory. He also recently sent out an email to supporters blasting the new voter ID law that McCrory has signed.

He also started a petition asking McCrory not to sign the voter ID bill.

Cooper's public criticisms of the voter ID bill drew a rebuke from McCrory, who told WRAL "the attorney general gave me his political opinion, not his legal opinion.'' The governor suggested Cooper might be in a conflict of interest.

Cooper responded by noting that his personal opinions have no bearing on his legal duties as attorney general.

Cooper, who was first elected attorney general in 2000, has been talked about for governor in the past, but he has always taken a pass.

Brian Nick to help McCrory-tied committee

Brian Nick, who played an important role in Pat McCrory's gubernatorial campaign, will be helping the outside non profit group formed by friends of the governor.

Nick will serve as spokesman and other roles for Renew North Carolina, a 501-C4 group that was formed earlier year by McCrory allies to push issues favored by the governor. The group held major fund raisers in Raleigh during the inaugural and more recently at the Grandover Hotel near Greensboro.

Nick, who works for the LA-based Strategic Perception consulting firm, was a McCrory advisor during the campaign. But after the election. He did not join the administration, but went to work in McCrory's old law firm, Moore and Van Allen in Charlotte. He has recently left the firm.

Nick is a veteran of Tar Heel politics having been heavily involved in both the campaigns and the Senate staff of Elizabeth Dole.

While working for Strategic Perception, Nick will be taking on Renew North Carolina as a client.

Morning Memo: N.C. Dems host muted event; McCrory explores gambling deal

N.C. DEMS HOST MUTED CONFAB: The N.C. Democratic Party hosts its executive committee meeting Saturday in Greensboro but the fanfare from years past is missing. The evening Sanford Hunt Frye Dinner is merely a reception this year. The event is typically one of the party's larger fundraisers and Massachusettes Gov. Deval Patrick served as keynote speaker in 2012. This year, no headliner as a speaker and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan isn't even attending. It speaks to the party's still weakened status and lack of defining political leadership. A Democratic spokesman said the party opted for a reception because of the party's meeting is expected to last until 5 p.m. (But as anyone who has attended these in the past knows, they alwasy run long.) Former Gov. Jim Hunt and former state Supreme Court Justice Henry Frye, the event's namesakes, will address the party faithful.

McCRORY ADMINISTRATION EXPLORES MOVE TO EXPAND GAMBLING IN NORTH CAROLINA: Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration is considering a potential deal to allow a South Carolina-based Indian tribe to open a casino just across the border in North Carolina in a move that is generating swift and fierce opposition from top Republican lawmakers. A new effort to expand gambling operations in the state could net North Carolina millions of dollars under a revenue-sharing agreement with the Catawba Indian Nation.

But it would carry significant political risk for McCrory, pitting the Republican governor against members of his own party.

***Read more on the potential casino deal below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: National Republicans launch billboards targeting Hagan

REPUBLICANS LAUNCH BILLBOARDS HITTING KAY HAGAN: The National Republican Senatorial Committee is debuting seven billboards across the state targeting U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's support for the federal health care law. Republicans are trying to make the case that Hagan, a Democrat facing re-election in 2014, accomplished nothing besides supporting Obamacare in the first five years of her term. (See a copy of the billboard here.)

"Kay Hagan promised North Carolinians that she would govern as a centrist, but instead has been a Democratic partisan, supporting the President's signature initiatives lock, stock and barrel," said Brook Hougesen, a NRSC spokeswoman.

The effort is designed to put the one-term incumbent -- who polls show is vulnerable -- on the defensive while the GOP struggles to find a dominant candidate. House Speaker Thom Tillis is the most prominent name in the race but other major Republicans are still considering whether to run. Cary physician Greg Brannon, a tea party candidate, is also making a bid. The billboards are located in Greensboro, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and the Raleigh-Durham area.

***More North Carolina political news -- including U.S. Senate campaign updates -- below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

McCrory's camp releases internal poll showing governor's approval at 48%

UPDATED: Pat McCrory's camp released internal poll numbers Wednesday showing his job approval rating at 48 percent -- a move designed to counter a different poll that shows the governor's stock declining.

The poll commissioned by Renew North Carolina Foundation, a private nonprofit extended from McCrory's 2012 campaign, gives the Republican governor a 26-point positive approval margin, with just 22 percent disapproving. His favorability rating is essentially the same at 49 favorable to 22 percent unfavorable, according to a portion of the poll released first to Dome. Another 29 percent were unsure. The margin of error for the poll is plus-or-minus 3.5 percent.

Earlier Wednesday, a new survey from Public Policy Polling showed McCrory's job approval rating at 39 percent with 51 percent disapproving -- his lowest numbers of his term and part of a sustained decline since he took office at the start of the year. The margin of error is 4 percent.

The poll asked the same question but the different numbers are likely attributed to methodology.

Morning Memo: McCrory's approval slips again, as he defends voter ID and prepares veto pen

ALERT: PAT McCRORY'S APPROVAL RATING FALLS TO 39 PERCENT A new Public Policy Polling survey set for release later Thursday shows the Republican governor's approval rating dipping to the 30s for the first time in his term. It's a slight slip from a month earlier but indicates his approval rating is not improving as he signs controversial legislation on abortion, voter ID and guns. The Raleigh-based Democratic firm found McCrory's approval at 39 percent and disapproval at 51 percent. Another 10 percent are unsure. The numbers represent a huge point slide from when he took office in January with a 45 percent approval and 19 percent disapproval rating.

Another number in the poll suggests half of voters believe he broke his campaign pledge on abortion. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. Check Dome later today for more numbers.

NEW YORK TIMES A1 HEADLINE: North Carolinians fear the end of a middle way: The story rehashes the rightward shift from the legislative session and focuses on Pat McCrory's tough spot. Campbell Robertson writes: "In an interview, Mr. McCrory said that critics had obscured what he called a pragmatic and fiscally responsible agenda. “It’s a combination of people on the two extremes wanting to bring up and exaggerate controversial issues,” he said, adding that he had pushed back against earlier versions of the abortion and tax bills, and was planning to veto other bills this week." Read the full story here.

***The governor keeps threatening a veto. Find out the likely target below in the Dome Morning Memo. And get his thoughts on the voter ID bill.***

1376508601 Morning Memo: McCrory's approval slips again, as he defends voter ID and prepares veto pen The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Butterfield asks Holder to challenge NC election law

Rep. G.K. Butterfield reacted to the news that Gov. Pat McCrory had signed a bill changing North Carolina's election laws by sending a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to use all available options to challenge the law.

In a statement the Democrat from Wilson said "With one stroke of his pen, McCrory has effectively reversed 30 years of progress and reinstated practices similar to the discriminatory ‘Southern strategy’ adopted by the Republican party in the 60s and 70s. Without question, today is a shameful day for Republicans in North Carolina.”

Gov. Pat McCrory signs voter ID bill

Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday signed into law a bill requiring voters to produce a photo ID when they go to the polls, a measure that was hailed by Republicans as a means for heightening ballot security but which was criticized by Democrats as a thinly disguised effort at voter suppression.

The measure signed by McCrory also reduces the early voting period by a week, ends early voting on Sunday, ends same-day voter registration, and does away with pre-registration of 16 and 17-year olds.

“North Carolinians overwhelmingly support a common sense law that requires voters to present photo identification in order to cast a ballot,” McCrory said in a statement. “I am proud to sign this legislation into law. Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote.” Read more here and read an op-ed from McCrory on why he signed the bill.

Morning Memo: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to attend Wake fundraiser

JAN BREWER TO ATTEND WAKE GOP FUNDRAISER: The Wake County Republican Party announced Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer will attend a Sept. 14 fundraiser in Raleigh for the local party's fall candidates. The announcement email includes the now infamous photo of Brewer, a Republican, wagging her finger upon meeting President Barack Obama at an airport tarmac. The top ticket for the fundraiser is a $5,000 VIP package and a single ticket is $75. The party expects the event to sell out.

THE MUMMIES RETURN: From columnist Rob Christensen-- "We have seen this before in North Carolina – the reign of the green-eyeshaded men who thought low taxes trumped all, and if there were any coins left in the till at the end of the day they would throw it into the education pot.

"It was called the 1800s. And Walter Hines Page had a name for them. He called North Carolina’s leaders “the mummies” as in very old, well-wrapped, very dead Egyptians because of their complacent conservatism." Read his full column here.

***Get more North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

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.

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