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Morning Memo: Protests return to Raleigh; DHHS faces more bad headlines

UPDATED: 'MORAL MONDAY' PROTESTS RETURN TO RALEIGH: The weekly protests that came to define the 2013 legislative session return to Raleigh on Monday. The focus is voting rights and public education and the demonstrations will be led by a coalition of youth organizers. The 4:30 p.m. protest will take place at the Executive Mansion -- not the Legislative Building as during the session. A similar event will take place in Rockingham.

Gov. Pat McCrory won't be home for the Raleigh event. He's in Charleston, S.C., today attending a Republican Governors Association Corporate Policy Summit, where he is moderating a panel on tax reform at a conference that draws lobbyist and donors.

MORE BAD HEADLINES: The bad headlines surrounding the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services are reverberating onto the opinion pages of the state's newspapers. Three publications across the state featured editorials or op-eds about the controversy at the department and Gov. Pat McCrory's actions. The headlines: "Youthful Republican brain trust helps governor miss the boat on Medicaid expansion;" "How a bad relationship between DHHS and the press can harm the public;" and "McCrory's shameless cronyism"

***Read the pieces and more N.C. political news below in today's Dome Morning Memo.***

McCrory travels to New Orleans for RGA meeting

Gov. Pat McCrory is attending a Republican Governor's Association meeting in New Orleans on Tuesday, his office announced after first saying he had no public schedule.

McCrory is attending the RGA's Corporate Policy Summit. His office noticed the event at 10:30 a.m. and did not release any other details. The night before it released a schedule without public events -- and said it wouldn't issue a daily calendar anymore. McCrory was critical of his predecessor for taking an unannounced trip to Pennsylvania later discovered by The News & Observer.

UPDATE: Kim Genardo, a McCrory spokeswoman, said the governor would fly to New Orleans this afternoon and speak at two workshops on workforce development and technology in education. It's unclear when he would return. Genardo said McCrory's schedule is in flux because of the General Assembly's work this week.

In first week as governor-elect, Pat McCrory heads to Las Vegas

UPDATED: Pat McCrory won the governor's race and now he's headed to Vegas to party.

Well, not entirely. The governor-elect is traveling to Sin City on Tuesday for the Republican Governors Association annual conference, which runs Wednesday through Friday, a spokesman said.

McCrory is sure to be celebrated as the only Republican to flip a governor's mansion from blue to red. But the conference is ostensibly agenda-focused with policy and political meetings intended to orient new governors like McCrory and hone the larger GOP message. Republicans now hold 30 state governorships -- the most since 2000.

Are national Democrats giving up on N.C. governor's race?

The Democratic Governors Association appears to be conceding the N.C. governor's race to Republicans.

A DGA-funded liberal group supporting Democratic candidate Walter Dalton's is not running TV ads this week -- as hundreds of thousands of voters go to the polls -- and no commercials are scheduled to appear in the final week before the election.

A spokesman for N.C. Citizens for Progress, the group helping Dalton, said national Democrats have not abandoned the race entirely, but he acknowledged it is dark this week with no concrete plans to make future TV ad purchases. The group "is currently assessing the political landscape to determine its actions for the last two weeks of the campaign," said Michael Weisel, a Raleigh attorney with the Citizens group.

With McCrory ahead, RGA pulls all remaining broadcast TV ads in N.C.

The Republican Governors Association pulled nearly all its remaining TV advertising in North Carolina, signaling its confidence that Pat McCrory is a lock in the governor's race.

The D.C.-based group planned to spend nearly $1 million on TV ads attacking Democrat Walter Dalton in the final two weeks of the election. But the RGA cut all spending on broadcast stations starting this week, media buyers reported Monday.

RGA ad attacks Walter Dalton for third time on sales tax proposal

The Republican Governors Association is airing a TV ad in North Carolina that attacks Walter Dalton for his one-time support for a sales tax hike -- the third such commercial from the group on the issue.

The 30-second spot starts with a clip of the Democratic candidate for governor criticizing Pat McCrory's tax plan, saying it could lead to higher sales taxes. And then hits Dalton for previously supporting a three-quarter of a penny sales tax for schools pitched by Gov. Bev Perdue earlier this year.

Confident in McCrory's lead in governor's race, Republicans trim ad spending

With Pat McCrory sitting on a double-digit lead in the polls, the Republican Governors Association is trimming its spending on TV commercials in North Carolina, according to new data.

The move signals that national Republicans are confident that McCrory is a near-lock to win the governor's race and allows the RGA to spend more in closer races across the country.

The RGA cut $400,000 from its ad buy in the next two weeks starting Monday, independent media buyers reported. "We feel comfortable," spokesman Mike Schrimpf said. "We are going to keep our foot on the gas but not press the pedal all the way to the floor."

The N.C. governor's race in one chart: ad spending to date

UPDATED: If one chart speaks volumes about the North Carolina governor's race, it's the one above detailing TV ad spending.

The data from media buyers shows Republicans have spent or reserved $12 million in TV time for commercials to boost Pat McCrory and take down Democrat Walter Dalton. By comparison, Democrats have spent and reserved $5.2 million in commercial time.

Democrats are vowing to buy more TV time, and Republicans could do the same, but the gap at this point in the campaign is telling.

Notebook: Are Democrats afraid to attack McCrory on his home turf?

Democrat Walter Dalton is pulling his new TV ad from the Charlotte market for the next two crucial weeks before the gubernatorial campaign's first debate, media buyers report. The move raises an intriguing question: Are Democrats afraid to attack Republican Pat McCrory on his home turf?

Consider this: Dalton aired his introductory commercial, a soft biographical piece, across the state, including Charlotte, starting earlier this month. But this week he switched his commercial to a new attack ad against his Republican rival, the former mayor of Charlotte, and released his reserved air time. 

A political group funded by the Democratic Governors Association also has avoided airing its attack ads against McCrory in Charlotte so far. 

Why not attack McCrory in Charlotte? Are Democrats conceding the state's most populous city and a geographically broad media market?

Morning Roundup: The Michelle Obama factor on the N.C. campaign trail

When First Lady Michelle Obama takes the podium, she is many things – character witness for her husband, defender of the anemic economic recovery, and exhorter-in-chief for the Democratic faithful.

Which is why Michelle Obama has become one of the most traveled political spouses in recent memory. Her campaign stops Wednesday at N.C. Central University in Durham and East Carolina University in Greenville were part of her 11th visit to North Carolina since 2009, according to the campaign. There is little mystery why. Read the full story here and see a photo gallery.

More political headlines:

--Check out these fact-checks on the new DGA-funded ad "Laundry" attacking Pat McCrory and the RGA ad "Year after year" hitting Walter Dalton.

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