Tags: | North Carolina | Senate | Tillis | Hagan

NC Senate: Tillis Puts Hagan on Defensive Over Ebola, ISIS

Image: NC Senate: Tillis Puts Hagan on Defensive Over Ebola, ISIS
North Carolina GOP state House Speaker Thom Tillis and state Senate Democrat Kay Hagan. (Pool/Reuters/Landov; Ron Sachs/DPA/Landov)

By    |   Monday, 20 Oct 2014 10:59 AM

The North Carolina Senate race between Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and GOP state House Speaker Thom Tillis is neck-in-neck, but the politics of Ebola and the Islamic State (ISIS) have made a sudden change to the dynamics of the race in the final weeks before Election Day.

According to The Washington Post, the two issues have given Tillis a new opening to criticize Hagan, putting her on the defensive about her positions on the issues when she had previously framed the race around Tillis' controversial conservative policies.

Tillis is using President Barack Obama's handling of the issues to link them to Hagan, keeping with his campaign's broader strategy of making Hagan's re-election a referendum on the president's record.

"This president has failed the American people," Tillis told volunteers in Raleigh on Saturday, according to the Post. "Sen. Hagan has been with him, with her rubber stamp, every step of the way. Our safety and security is more threatened now than it has ever been."

Last week, Tillis also hammered Hagan for not calling out President Barack Obama for his handling of Ebola and ISIS.

Tillis has been vocal about the need for a travel ban to protect the country against Ebola and has criticized Hagan for changing her position on the issue.

Hagan initially opposed a travel ban, in keeping with the Obama administration's policy, but two days after declaring her opposition to it, she switched her position, calling for a temporary ban on non-U.S. travelers from West Africa.

The Tillis campaign also put Hagan on the defensive after calling her out for missing a classified briefing in February on national security threats. She had instead attended a New York fundraiser.

Hagan's campaign rejected implications that she has not been engaged on national security issues, citing meetings with top generals in Afghanistan and Iraq and 20 meetings she chaired for the Senate subcommittee on emerging threats, the Post reported.

"Speaker Tillis can only criticize," Hagan told reporters Sunday, according to the Post.  "He has not one idea of his own that he would put forward — not one."

The shift in the issues now dominating the race has given Republicans new hope of capturing the seat, and they are pouring millions of dollars into new attack ads to try to reinforce the new narrative seen to be favoring Tillis.

The most recent poll released last week put Tillis in the lead over Hagan for the first time, albeit by just 1 point, according to RealClearPolitics.

"Eyes are now starting to turn to Washington, and that's probably the worst-case scenario for [the Hagan campaign] right now," Paul Shumaker, Tillis' campaign strategist told the Post.

"The president has done a good job helping refocus this race for us," he added. "Thank you, Mr. President."

North Carolina Democrats, however, say it may be too late in the campaign to change voters' minds based on those two issues.

"I think in the last week they have probably had a little headway in making it a nationalized election," Morgan Jackson, a Democrat strategist in Raleigh, told the Post.

"The question is, is it too little and too late? If this was a month ago, it would be a much different situation. But the ability to change voters' minds, that window is about to close."

Meanwhile, Hagan still prevails in terms of paid advertising, even with the new infusions of cash for Tillis from the GOP, the Post reported. She also benefits from aggressive grass-roots campaigns by third parties including Planned Parenthood, the League of Conservation Voters, and unions.

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The North Carolina Senate race between Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan and GOP state House Speaker Thom Tillis is neck-in-neck, but the politics of Ebola and the Islamic State have made a sudden change to the dynamics of the race in the final weeks before Election Day.
North Carolina, Senate, Tillis, Hagan
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2014-59-20
Monday, 20 Oct 2014 10:59 AM
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