As Tillis Attends State Fair, A Reminder That Elections Break Late In North Carolina

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Oct 18, 2014 9:30 AM
As Tillis Attends State Fair, A Reminder That Elections Break Late In North Carolina

This post has been updated.

The latest polls coming out of North Carolina have the race tied, or with Hagan leading her Republican challenger–Thom Tillis–by 1-point. For most of the summer, Hagan had a small 4-point lead over Tillis. With ISIS, Ebola, and international issues taking a more prominent role in the 2014 midterms, Tillis seems to have erased his deficit with Hagan–and he appears to be not letting up as the campaign approaches its final hours.

Yesterday, at the North Carolina State Fair, Tillis greeted attendees with enthusiasm. His approachability is one characteristic North Carolinian voters will find appealing. I know I’ve been saying this ad nauseum, but there’s a neo-populist wave–spawned from the ashes of the 2010 Tea Party movement–that’s forming across the country. These voters want a candidate they can relate to, who has experienced personal struggle, and overcame it. Tillis fits this narrative well.

At the same time, there seems to be a bit of campaign fatigue; this usually happens around this time as voters, especially those living in states where the race is close are bombarded with phone calls, endless streams of volunteers invading their neighborhoods, and the pervasive use of political attack ads.

A middle-aged mother by the John Deere homemade ice cream shack told me that it’s really a coin toss for her when Election Day comes; she thinks the campaigns on both sides are too negative, which is why she hasn’t been paying too close attention to either Hagan or Tillis. Another woman on the shuttle ride to the fairgrounds told me that she doesn’t like either of the candidates–and also said the overall Senate campaign had become too negative. 

Her husband declined to give his opinion on the race, opting to say that he’s only here for a corn dog.

Then again, another woman admitted that she hasn’t followed the race closely either, but will be supporting Thom Tillis on Nov. 4; hey, it’s called the base for a reason.

Overall, the Republican presence was strong at the fair. That much is clear.  Supporters for Tillis were highly visible, wearing campaign stickers across their shirts with pride; there's no voter fatigue with these troops.  The volunteers at the NC GOP booth were worried about running out of stickers before the fair ends next week.

When asked what they thought caused Hagan to lose her lead in the polls, an older gentleman wearing a Tillis sticker, along with his wife, said that the people were coming back to reality on Kay Hagan. Another man, who was with his family, said that he was a Tillis fan because he saw him as a better leader. He did voice his dissatisfaction over the negative ads being used on both sides.

Sorry guys, yes, these ads are annoying, but they work.   

Jordan Shaw, Tillis’ spokesperson and campaign manager, said that the one of the reasons why Tillis has been able to erase Hagan’s slim lead was due to Americans’ realization that this race is also about the safety and security of country. “Voters are seeing a record of failure to keep this country safe and secure on behalf on Hagan and Obama,” Shaw said.

I’m sure folks in the Tillis campaign breathed a sigh of relief given that national Democrats and Kay Hagan have slammed Tillis incessantly for his alleged $500 million in education cuts, but expect the “sins of Raleigh” approach to continue as long as the state legislature remains unpopular.

Yet, Tillis released this ad hitting Hagan and her family over allegations that they profited off stimulus money that was awarded to her husband’s company; the amount was close to $400,000.

Hagan has hit Tillis over abortion rights and Planned Parenthood. As I’m writing this post, I’ve seen at least several anti-Tillis ads of this nature, including the one linking him to the Koch brothers.

Lastly, the Democratic brand–in general–is floundering. The GOP dominates on issues of national security, but now it seems voters are trusting the Republicans more in handling the economy, the budget, and immigration.

This precipitous decline in the Obama and Democrat brands could be having an impact on Hagan’s numbers. While the GOP’s approval numbers with voters aren’t good either, the senate races that could determine who wins the majority this November happen to be in states where Romney won handily in 2012. And by handily, I mean by 10+ points or more.

Shaw noted that races in North Carolina have historically broken late–and this cycle seems to be no exception.

Wheel in the cots on Election Day; this could be a very long night in North Carolina.

Editor's note: I should have made this clarification in the original post. From the comments section, some folks pointed out that Romney won North Carolina by a slim 2 percent margin. That's true. Still, Tillis can certainly win in North Carolina, but Alaska, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana are looking pretty for the GOP. Iowa and Colorado are also looking like Republican pick-ups come Election Day.  Overall, Republicans are in good shape (Georgia is beginning to lean towards the Democrats, but that's for another time) heading into the final stretches of this campaign season.  


Nevertheless, the easiest road to a Republican majority in the Senate (six seats) is through North Carolina.