Helms and Hunt: The North Carolina Senate Race, 1984

By William D. Snider | Go to book overview

to another convicted murderer, intervention in the Barfield case would have guaranteed prolonged controversy.

Still, the Hunt camp remained nervous over the potential fallout. " Solomon himself can't tell you how that will affect people," said Phil Carlton.


29. The Punch-drunk Voters

In the first week of October pollsters sampling the North Carolina electorate discovered something unusual: the number of "undecided" voters in the senatorial race had begun rising. Could it be that excesses of the campaign --a too-early start, lavish expenditures, vitriolic exchanges, and overexposure--had generated a backlash against both candidates?

In a newspaper interview Helms acknowledged that in the television debates he and Hunt had behaved "like two long-tailed cats in a roomful of rocking chairs." He said he regretted appearing "harsh" and thought the sharp tone might have turned off voters. In Raleigh his press secretary, Claude Allen, carefully noted that the senator intended to emphasize the "positive" side of his record in the remaining weeks. Yet Helms's television ads continued to bombard Hunt as a "Mondale liberal" who supported tax increases, and his campaign once again reminded the voters that Hunt had accepted contributions from "radical homosexuals."

Attending the Vance-Aycock Dinner in Asheville on the eve of the first Reagan-Mondale debate, Hunt agreed that he and Helms had been perceived as harsh. "He [ Helms] has come off far more strident than I have. I think it's primarily his doing; he's snapped at me."

The London Economist, which was following the campaign closely, surmised that "the voters are rather punch-drunk. Most of them knew where they stood when they started; they scarcely needed all this attention."

A leading Tar Heel educator got word to the Hunt camp that the governor ought to produce more television commercials showing Hunt "sitting under an oak tree with his father," explaining the good things he'd done and expected to do for North Carolina. Another top-level adviser questioned the new thirty-second commercials linking Helms with "a tight network of radical right-wing groups [ Jerry Falwell, Nelson Bunker Hunt]" as "McCarthyism in reverse."

-179-

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Helms and Hunt: The North Carolina Senate Race, 1984
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Prologue 3
  • Mr. Clean and the Fire Chief's Son 5
  • I. Patriarch and Upstart 7
  • 2. Salt of the Earth People 10
  • 2. Salt of the Earth People 18
  • 2. Salt of the Earth People 25
  • 5. Too Proud to Be Proud 31
  • Naysayer and Pragmatist 37
  • 6. the Lone Ranger 39
  • 7. a Touch of Camelot and Carter 43
  • 7. a Touch of Camelot and Carter 49
  • 10. a New Direction 58
  • Master Campaigner and Avenging Angel 63
  • Ii. Political Tarnish 65
  • 12. Catching Hand Grenades 70
  • 13. Against the Wind 78
  • 114. Helms at Bay 82
  • 114. Helms at Bay 91
  • 114. Helms at Bay 95
  • 17. That Old-Time Religion 104
  • Epochal Battle or Mud Fight? 111
  • 18. "I'Ll Carry It" 113
  • 19. "Helms Can't Win" 117
  • 20. the D'Aubuisson Connection 122
  • 21. the School of Hard Knox 128
  • 22. the Windsor Story 136
  • 23. When Helms Wasn't Helms 139
  • 24. Time Out for Party Time 146
  • 25. the Big Guns of August 150
  • The Helmsmen Ride High 157
  • 26. a Severe Identity Crisis 159
  • 27. the Reagan Tide 167
  • 28. "Macabre Wild Card" 179
  • 30. Search and Destroy 186
  • 31. a Dead Heat? 194
  • 31. a Dead Heat? 201
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