I spent one hour yesterday talking with Jim Neal in his home. We mostly talked about life. And here's what I learned.
On family. Jim Neal raised his two sons as a single parent for 15 or so years. I met one of his sons, who is a bright and warm young man. It was clear that both father and son adore each other. As a person who myself was a single parent for many years, I know what it takes to do what he's done. That should tell you all you need to know about Jim Neal's family values.
On North Carolina. Jim was born in Greensboro. He has also lived in South Carolina, California and probably elsewhere. But he is a Tar Heel through and through. Not a carpet-bagger. Not an occasional visitor. Not a fair-weather friend. He is one of us, and it shows.
On money. Jim Neal knows how to do fundraising. He has done the work of meeting and greeting many of the Big Cheeses, and I feel certain he will be able to raise the $12+ million necessary to run an effective campaign.
On politics. Jim first got involved in politics back when LBJ was running for president. He has been something of a political junkie ever since, though he has not run for office until now. That said, he has been chomping at the bit and his children are now old enough - they have given him their blessing to run.
On campaigning. Jim wakes up every morning with one mission: defeat Liddy Dole. Like many of us, he knows from people all across the state that she is extremely vulnerable. Because despite her efforts to try to distance herself from the Decider, there is one fundamental truth in this campaign. Liddy Dole = George Bush. It doesn't get much simpler than that.
On soft drinks. Mr. Neal favors Diet Coke.
On a primary. Will anyone else enter the race and create a primary contest? Jim says it doesn't really matter to him. A primary would create some visibility, but it would also siphon off resources. In any case, he's very clear that the person he's running against Elizabeth Dole.
On personality. Jim Neal is a nice guy with a razor sharp edge. You can tell within two seconds of meeting him that he is totally driven. He shares our outrage about what Republicans have done to our nation and he is committed to setting things right. He is soft-spoken and articulate, and very, very clear about what's important to him. He asks good questions and he listens to the answers. He seems like a person who does what he says he will do, which is my number one measure of integrity.
Beyond that, I can't offer anything of substance on issues, strategy or anything else. We didn't talk about those things.
It's good to be back.