With North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan a no-show, Republican challenger Thom Tillis on Tuesday night faced an empty chair for their fourth and final debate in the tight race – and she faced some energetic needling from the state Republican Party.
In what amounted to an hour-long interview by two reporters and voters that aired on a Time Warner cable channel
, Tillis answered questions on topics he and Hagan had already battled over, including the Ebola crisis, the Islamic State (ISIS), and Hagan's absences from Armed Services Committee hearings, Breitbart
Hagan had declined to participate in advance of the debate, but the North Carolina Republican Party sent out hourly updates counting down to the non-event anyway, posing questions they wanted her to answer, Breitbart reports.
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Noting that Hagan's last event for the day was in Wilson, N.C., at 4:30 p.m., North Carolina Republican Party Executive Director Todd Poole issued a statement noting: "Google Maps says it takes 53 minutes to get from Wilson to Raleigh," Breitbart reports.
"Even if they want to stop at Parker's for delicious BBQ on the way, that leaves plenty of time for Sen. Hagan to participate in tonight's debate," he chided.
"If Sen. Hagan isn't planning to come to Raleigh for the debate, she ought to at least tell the people of North Carolina what is more important than talking with them about the important issues facing our nation," Poole added, going on to call skipping the debate "a particular insult to the North Carolina press."
In a statement after the debate, North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope Jr. slammed Hagan's no-show
"Sen. Hagan works for the people of North Carolina – and they expect her to show up for work," he said.
"Tonight, she had an opportunity to answer questions about her 'stimulus' payday, her Ebola travel ban flip-flop, and her decision to skip a classified briefing on the Islamic State for a fundraiser on Park Avenue. She had an opportunity, at long last, to lay out a positive vision for growth and jobs. She did not," Pope said, going on to praise Tillis for his performance.
But one analyst said the non-debate was a probable win for both candidates.
"She has a small lead in the polls, and this is a risk-averse strategy," political scientist Steven Greene of North Carolina State University told the Fayetteville Observer
"Something a candidate says in the debate is rarely a big help, but there's plenty of examples of a misstatement becoming a significant negative."
As for Tillis, Greene said he got "a free hour from Time Warner."
"Hard to imagine too many non-Tillis supporters bothering to tune in," he added. "The big loser? Time Warner's ratings."
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