The North Carolina Senate race continues to be a nail-biter for Democrats and Republicans. Sen. Kay Hagan’s Republican challenger, Thom Tillis, released this ad featuring a military mom appalled by the Obama administration’s incompetence in confronting ISIS–and adding that Hagan supports him 96 percent of the time. As for the previous ad where the Tillis campaign slammed Hagan for missing congressional hearings, Politifact rated that “mostly true.”
Concerning polls, there’s the NBC/Marist poll, which Politico said brought some "good news" for Senate Democrats; Hagan leads Tillis in that poll 44/40 by likely voters. Another bad sign for Tillis is that 36 percent of voters have a favorable view of him, compared to 47 percent who don’t concerning likely voters. For registered voters, it’s a 33/46 favorable to unfavorable split, with residents resting at 30/44. That’s pretty bad, but 14 percent of likely voters, 16 percent of registered voters, and 18 percent of residents aren’t sure what to think about Tillis yet. As I’ve mentioned before, Mr. Tillis has room to grow–and giving his very humble life story on the stump can help rehabilitate those numbers.
At the same time, it looks as if the CNN poll, which had Tillis' approval/disapproval ratings at a 47/40, was something of an outlier. Meaning, Kay Hagan’s strategy to make the sins of Tillis, Raleigh, and the state legislature greater than that of Washington is still effective, right? Well, not really. First, Tillis is starting to slam the Obama administration for their hesitancy to institute a travel ban on Ebola impacted countries. With possible cases in Delaware, and the possibility that Ebola could hit France and the United Kingdom by mid-October, expect this to be another talking point as the campaign shifts more towards foreign policy.
Then again, it seems as if Gov. Pat McCrory’s numbers have rebounded a bit, although they’re still underwater. When it comes to McCrory’s approval/disapproval numbers, registered voters split 48/38, with 14 percent unsure; residents go 46/37, with 17 percent unsure. So, it still could be that the unpopularity of the state government isn’t as extensive as the Hagan campaign would have liked to disseminate this election cycle.
Additionally, a CBS News/NYT/YouGov poll has Hagan leading Tillis by only 1 point, 44/43–with leaners; it’s 46/45. Tillis faces a huge gender gap with women voters, who break for Hagan 49/34.
With this race so close, it’s no surprise that both sides are trying to mobilize voters who usually don’t vote in off-year elections (via WSJ):
Using new computer models developed in the last presidential race, Democrats have compiled a list of roughly 500,000 female voters likely to support Ms. Hagan who cast ballots in the 2012 White House race but sat out the 2010 midterms. They have identified a similar group of 374,000 black voters who also fit that description. Democrats are bombarding these voters with calls, emails and personal visits.
Both sides are also trying new, pilot-tested tactics to motivate the voters they have identified as targets. One example: Planned Parenthood Votes, which is primarily focused on “drop-off” voters who skip midterm elections, has been interviewing voters over the phone about the importance of casting ballots. The group plans to play those recordings back to those individuals before Election Day, a persuasion tactic adopted after years of field testing.
In another big shift in electoral tactics, outside groups aligned with the GOP are financing a growing share of voter outreach.
The conservative group American Crossroads recently conducted a survey of 1.2 million potential voters in eight top Senate battleground states, targeting people who voted for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 but didn’t vote in the 2010 midterm, as well as people who tend to vote in midterms but whose party preference is less clear. The results will guide the group and its pro-GOP allies in trying to persuade those people to vote.
That data also help Republicans more generally because the information gathered is fed into the Data Trust, a clearinghouse that shares voter data with the Republican National Committee. Campaigns and other party organizations can use the data once the RNC has access to it.
The turnout battle has led both parties and their allies to put money into voter-mobilization that, in other years, might have gone to television ads. Nationally, Senate Democrats plan to spend $60 million on turnout, deploying more than 4,000 paid staffers to the most competitive races. In North Carolina, Democrats have recruited roughly 10,000 volunteers to help Ms. Hagan win a second term.
Republicans won’t disclose how much they plan to spend nationally on turnout, but the Republican National Committee, acknowledging that Democrats had the more sophisticated voter-turnout effort in 2012, has invested more than $5 million since last year to motivate voters in North Carolina. The GOP now boasts 12 field offices, 26 full-time staff members and 4,000 volunteers on the ground.
Sean Spicer, the RNC’s communications director, wrote a memo on this as well.
In regards to black North Carolina voters, some are saying that they could be the bloc that gives Hagan her second term.
We shall see. The next debate is October 7. I'm sure President Obama's unhelpful remarks last week will make their way into Tillis' line of attack (via WaPo) [emphasis mine]:
President Obama was at Northwestern University on Thursday to deliver an economic speech that, he and his team hoped, would lay out the case for why the public is better off today than they were six years ago -- even if they didn't feel it in their everday lives. Instead, Obama just gave every Republican ad-maker in the country more fodder for negative ads linking Democratic candidates to him.
Here are the four sentences that will draw all of the attention (they come more than two thirds of the way through the speech): "I am not on the ballot this fall. Michelle’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them."