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The most-clicked Dome posts of 2012 show N.C. in national spotlight

What made the biggest splash on Dome in 2012? The top 5 stories -- in terms of reader clicks --reflect how North Carolina played a major role in the national political scene and the Washington-driven penchant for little news bits that speak to a larger narrative. It doesn't necessarily reflect the biggest news of the political year, but what generated interest in the blogosphere.

Click below to see the top 5.

Morning Roundup: Candidates clash in first governor, presidential debates

North Carolina’s candidates for governor, Walter Dalton and Pat McCrory, engaged in a sharp-edged televised debate Wednesday, offering barbed exchanges on taxes, businesses, fracking, race and voter ID that reflected the state’s political polarization.

Dalton most often was in the role of the aggressor, portraying McCrory as someone who would be more responsive to the interests of the well-to-do, whether it came to taxes or big oil companies. McCrory portrayed himself as the reformer who would make much needed changes in the state, while painting Dalton as part of a failed “good ol’ boy and good ol’ girl system."

Read the full story here and three fact-checks from the debate.

More political headlines:

--President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney squared off in primetime. Analysis: Romney relaxed, Obama out-of-sync. Fact checks. Reaction from voters in Charlotte at watch parties and from undecided voters.

Morning Roundup: Dalton, McCrory tax plans define governor's race

A defining question in the governor’s race will affect the pocketbooks of every North Carolina resident: Who should pay taxes and how much?

Democrat Walter Dalton and Republican Pat McCrory are traveling the state touting wildly different tax plans as part of their pitch to revive the state’s economy and remedy the persistently high jobless rate. Dalton offers modest tweaks to the tax code with a combination of incentives and tax breaks, while McCrory is pushing for a complete overhaul that could shift the state’s tax burden by billions of dollars.

Read the full story here and get a breakdown of the candidates tax plans. Also read about how McCrory and Dalton have a record of supporting tax hikes.

More political headlines:

--Rob Christensen: Last week vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was briefly in the state. On Tuesday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be in North Carolina. The Wisconsin-North Carolina connection is not an obvious one. But the states are more alike than one might imagine at first blush.

Sunday reads for the Democratic convention

Two good Sunday long reads ahead of the Democratic convention in Charlotte:

From Politico's Jonathan Martin: "Ever since his national debut at the 2004 Democratic convention, Barack Obama’s calling card has been that he practices consensus-oriented politics that transcend traditional divisions. But four years after his historic presidential election, the country he sought to bring together is even more divided than when he launched his candidacy. And no place is more polarized than the South."

From National Journal's Beth Reinhard: "North Carolina crystallizes a key question looming over the 2012 election and those to follow: Can Hispanics translate their growing numbers into greater political clout on relatively unfamiliar ground? Although Hispanics’ voting participation lags their population numbers almost everywhere, states with long-standing Latino communities—such as California, Florida, New York, and Texas—boast battle-tested political infrastructures of liberal, minority, and labor groups that sweep Hispanic voters to the polls every Election Day."

Morning Roundup: A North Carolina political primer ahead of the DNC

North Carolina Democrats enter the national convention in their home state with much to prove. More than anything, the state’s partisan faithful must demonstrate that President Barack Obama’s 2008 victory in this traditionally Republican state was not a fluke – that North Carolina deserves to host the Democratic convention and merits a spot among the more traditional campaign battleground states like Florida and Ohio. Read the full story here.

More politics from the News & Observer and Charlotte Observer below:

--A complete North Carolina political primer from one of the experts, UNC Journalism Prof and former N&O writer Ferrel Guillory: "Once viewed as falling below the norm in many national comparisons, North Carolina’s mixture of civic and economic strengths and weaknesses now are more in keeping with mainstream America. The state has become less a lagging and more a leading indicator of national issues and trends."

Weekend Roundup: Fracking in North Carolina could carry extra risks

North Carolina’s flirtation with fracking is increasingly looking like the real thing, with Republican lawmakers poised to pass sweeping legislation this summer that would lead to drilling for natural gas.The state may have just a fraction of the enormous natural gas reserves found in Texas and Pennsylvania. But fracking here will likely entail greater risks to drinking water supplies and may require special measures not used in other states. Full story here.

More political headlines from the weekend:

--Columnist Rob Christensen: If you turned on your TV last week, you could have seen political ads touting Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, or tearing down Walter Dalton or Pat McCory. In recent days, Romney toured a Charlotte factory floor, and first lady Michelle Obama gave a commencement speech at a Greensboro college campus. The South Carolina GOP pledged to send in 1,000 volunteers into the state. All sides were hiring political operatives and opening offices. In a battleground state, politics is a growth business.

Smithfield's ships 2 pounds of barbecue to Rick Perry

A N.C. barbecue restaurant is looking to convert Texas Gov. Rick Perry into a fan of eastern-style barbecue after he once said it tasted worse than "road kill."

Smithfield's Chicken 'N Bar-B-Q sent the 2012 Republican presidential frontrunner a letter today after reading about Perry's remark in The News & Observer. Along with the letter, SCNB included two pounds of barbecue, one pound of slaw and a pint of hot sauce. 

"I strongly encourage you to revisit your experience with Eastern North Carolina Bar-B-Q and give you the opportunity to rectify your statement," the letter asks. "We hope you enjoy this sample and perhaps sway your opinion originally based on the snapshot experience you had with Eastern N.C. Bar-B-Q."

As a commenter on SCNB's blog suggests, “Gov. Perry, clearly all those jalapeños have destroyed your taste buds.”

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