NC SEN: Money Is How Hagan Stayed 'Afloat,' Both Sides Prepare For Tonight's Debate

Posted: Oct 07, 2014 8:00 PM

Over at Politico, there’s an interesting piece why Sen. Kay Hagan might survive come Election Day. In short, her campaign narrative of tying Tillis to the state legislature in Raleigh might be enough to give her the buffer she needs to claim victory. Then again, the shift towards ISIS and foreign policy, where Republicans dominate with voters concerning trust in handling such issues, has been able to move the needle in Tillis’ direction. The latest CBS News/ NYT/YouGov poll had Tillis within one point of Hagan.

Regardless, Tillis has been relentlessly beaten as anti-education, which is something he hasn’t really recovered from, according to the article:

An advantage on television and in digital advertising has allowed Hagan to localize the race by focusing on education. Tillis, on the other hand, has struggled to get as much traction on his message tying Hagan to Obama and national Democrats unpopular in the state.

“It’s obviously easier to define the narrative when you have a lot more money,” said Brian Walsh, a GOP strategist and former NRSC staffer.

Walsh and other Republicans also insist that the closeness of the race — and the difficulty Tillis has had in breaking away — has more to do with the changing demographics in North Carolina that have made the state more purple than red; Hagan is often grouped with the other three Democratic incumbents facing tough reelection fights in states won by Mitt Romney in 2012: Alaska’s Mark Begich, Arkansas’ Mark Pryor and Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu.

“Tillis was never going to win this thing until the very last day of the very last month,” said Dallas Woodhouse, president of Carolina Rising, which is spending big to boost Tillis. “It’s just a false narrative to include North Carolina as a red state.”

Privately, many Republicans are also wondering if Hagan would still have been in a strong position if Tillis had resigned as speaker. They blame Tillis’ “lost summer” — which resulted from a summer session of the Legislature, supposed to last only a few weeks, dragging on for three months — with keeping the Republican from fundraising, campaigning and distancing himself from some unpopular conservative legislative policies, including slashing jobless benefits, new voting laws and opposing Medicaid expansion.

Oh, and Hagan has been adroit at raising money, which is probably why defining Tillis as “anti-education” has been so successful. A new Elon poll also has some interesting finds - some good, some not so good.  Keep in mind that the sample was comprised of registered voters, not likely voters; likely voters are the most accurate gauges in election polling this late in the game. 

When given an image of Hagan and President Obama and Tillis and Gov. Pat McCrory, Obama hurts Hagan more in her favorability ratings than Tillis with McCrory. But, even Republicans viewed the picture with Tillis and McCrory unfavorably; a sign that maybe the governor’s job approval numbers, which showed improvement, aren’t rebounding as strongly per the NBC/Marist poll on this race.

One positive for Tillis is that he runs the table on issues like immigration, gay marriage, and national defense, whereas Hagan has control of the field on education and women’s issues. Yet, Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh could potentially siphon more votes away from Hagan than Tillis; Elon said, “Tillis should be thankful that Haugh is on the ballot.”

Nevertheless, the Clinton factor also has to be marked in this case; an endorsement from Clinton “would make 38% of people look at the candidate more favorably, compared to 24% who would take a less favorable view,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Given these indicators, which has kept his race close; it's safe to assume that the Tillis camp knows how critical tonight's debate is concerning this election. Tillis and Hagan will duke it out again at 7 p.m. tonight. 

One last point; it seems like Tillis is listed first on the ballot, which could cost him votes via the "recency" effect.