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Sen. Burr: North Carolina Will Stay Red

In a rebuttal to Sen. Barack Obama’s speech on the economy today in North Carolina, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told reporters that North Carolina will stay Republican this November, as it has since 1976. In a conference call organized by the McCain campaign, he also said Sen. John McCain will continue the economic policies of the Bush administration that have succeeded in transforming the state’s economy.

Obama began a two-week tour of battleground states today with an appearance in Raleigh. The Illinois senator was introduced by North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley, a former Clinton supporter. John Edwards, Obama’s former rival for the Democratic nomination, attended the rally with his wife, Elizabeth. North Carolina is one of several red states the Obama campaign hopes to move to the blue column in the general election.

Burr, a distant relative of former vice president and famed duelist Aaron Burr, dismissed Obama’s appearance as "cursory."

"It’s pretty tough to make the case that North Carolina is in play if you aren’t willing to come here. He’s probably done his cursory stop, I’d be curious to see if he comes back. The polls don’t suggest that he has any better chance than the Democratic presidential candidates of the past."

In an increasingly rare moment of the McCain campaign praising the Bush administration, Burr said the tax policies of the administration have been instrumental in spurring the recent development of the North Carolina economy. He said McCain will expand on those policies as president.

"When you look at the fact that it’s been the tax policy of the current administration — that Sen. McCain wants to continue — that led us [to] a transformation from textiles and furniture traditional manufacturing to now the fastest-growing state for biotechnology, [and] probably one of the largest recipients of National Institute of Health research and development funding in the country, you realize that many of the things that Sen. McCain has talked about are only going to strengthen his hand in North Carolina, because our economy has changed greatly in the last four years."

Burr said voters in other battleground states, like Michigan and Ohio, that have been hit hard by the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs overseas should take note of North Carolina’s progress.

"This probably should be something that individuals in Michigan and other Rust Belt states should look at. There is a track record for states accomplishing this, as long as you’ve got the right policies in place. John McCain’s proposals will only further the advancement of North Carolina’s economy.".

Doug Holtz-Eakin, a senior policy adviser took the opportunity to highlight some of McCain’s proposals: including combining federal unemployment insurance and displaced worker retraining programs to help those workers who lose their jobs to outsourcing, eliminating the alternative minimum tax, implementing a permanent research and development tax break for corporations and lowering the corporate tax rate. Holtz-Eakin also attacked one of Obama’s advisers, Jim Johnson, who has come under fire for receiving loans with favorable interest rates from Countrywide Financial, which Obama himself has criticized for its role in the sub-prime lending crisis.

Holtz-Eakin also took a shot at Obama for supporting a 2005 energy bill that McCain opposed because it "does little to address the immediate energy crisis we face in this country" — a bill Burr supported as well.

The DNC quickly issued a statement challenging Burr’s claims that the Bush administration’s policies have benefited North Carolina.

Senator Richard Burr admitted that John McCain wants to continue President Bush’s tax policies, claiming that “the Bush tax policies that McCain wants to continue” have benefited North Carolina. In reality, the Bush economy has been a nightmare for North Carolina.Unemployment, child poverty and the number of North Carolinians who lack health insurance have all soared on President Bush’s watch.

I guess it all depends on how you look at it.

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