Yep. That’s the verdict handed down by Washington Post columnist and drive-by media pundit E.J. Dionne regarding our US Senate race this year:
The five African American pastors and bishops represented diverse theological traditions, but all were profoundly unhappy over what North Carolina’s ultra-conservative state government in Raleigh had done to reduce access to the ballot box, cut education spending and turn back money to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
The irony, said the Rev. Dray Bland, pastor of First Baptist on Apple — the street location distinguishes it from the predominantly white First Baptist Church downtown — is that measures designed to make it harder for voters to cast ballots may actually inspire a larger number to do so.
“While many in Raleigh thought they could suppress the vote through these new voter laws, they may increase turnout by rallying the vote,” Bland said. “The apathy we might have had has turned into action.”
Hmmm. Black preachers paying lip service to the Democrat Party. *Who’da thunk it?* (I wonder if these guys know The Round Rev.?) MORE:
[…] In the struggle for control of the Senate, the reaction against reaction has allowed Sen. Kay Hagan, so far at least, to defy the punditocracy. Once seen as one of this year’s most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, Hagan has been maintaining a small but steady lead over state House Speaker Thom Tillis.
Tillis’s problem is the sharp right turn in the governance of one of the South’s traditionally moderate states, which he helped engineer along with Gov. Pat McCrory. The governor doesn’t face the voters this year, so Tillis is reaping the whirlwind — particularly in a state that has been a pioneer in using good schools and world-class universities to build its economy.
“Traditionally moderate”? Let’s see — from 1972 to 2002 we sent Jesse Helms to the US Senate. In 2012, we elected Dan Forest as lieutenant governor. Both of these guys campaigned as proud, principled conservatives. Right now, Forest is arguably the most popular political figure in the state. MORE:
“The edge that Kay Hagan has in this race, I believe, is attributable to the direction the state has taken and Thom Tillis’s role in that,” said Rep. David Price (D), whose district includes the Research Triangle area that typifies North Carolina’s road to growth. “There are many things to be outraged about, but the most powerful is what the Republicans have done to public education, and to our teachers.”
Yeah. A “road to growth” paved with a hell of a lot of government employees slavishly devoted to the gods of bureaucracy. *It’s good of Dionne to pick such an unbiased analyst of the political climate.* MORE:
Tillis had one person on his mind. No matter what question moderator George Stephanopoulos asked, Tillis found a way to mention that Hagan had voted “96 percent” of the time with President Obama. He made 10 references to that number and, in case anybody missed it, mentioned it twice more at a news conference after the debate. Tillis is betting his campaign on disaffection with the president.
For her part, Hagan pointed out that, while Obama is not on the ballot, Tillis is. Her calling card was Tillis’s “extremism.” She stayed on him for having “gutted education” and at times forced the speaker on the defensive. She also criticized Tillis for blocking the Medicaid expansion and for opposing, among other measures, the minimum wage, new equal-pay laws and student loan refinancing, even as he had favored “tax cuts for the wealthy.”
Yet there is no way Hagan will let Tillis tag her as a liberal. In the battle of statistics, she loves nothing better than to cite National Journal’s 2013 Senate ratings that position her “smack dab in the middle, just like North Carolina,” a phrase she used to open an interview on Wednesday. Indeed, the magazine’s numbers had her at 49.3 percent liberal, 50.7 percent conservative.
Tillis’s record and Hagan’s own have allowed her to make the argument that Democrats would like to press nationwide: that today’s Republican Party is far to the right of the country in its attitudes toward government’s role, even on basic matters such as education.
And the very effort to make it harder for people to vote signals the importance of the franchise in a way that no amount of direct mail could. The Rev. William Barber II, whose “Moral Mondays” movement has mobilized opposition to the parade of right-wing policies out of Raleigh, said in an interview that voters in the state are ready to rise up against an approach designed to “make sure that it’s easier to get a gun than to vote.”
Should they do so, you wonder if Republicans will get the message: that even voters disappointed with President Obama are not ready to embrace a radical conservatism as the alternative.
Let me explain something to ol’ E.J. and the rest of the chattering class who think they have this all figured out. Tillis has a number of problems — none of which include raging conservatism. He’s a technocrat who is more impressed with process than principle. When he first ran for the state House, he bashed his GOP opponent for not bringing a sufficient amount of government money back to the district.
The Tillis campaign’s biggest problem is that a lot of the things they COULD attack Hagan on could easily be turned around onto their guy. It’ shard to establish credibility on fighting ObamaCare when your guy actually fought to establish a state health exchange. He tried to push through a massive pork-laden piece of legislation near the end of the legislative session. When his own Republicans balked at this largesse, he unsuccessfully tried to cut a deal with the Democrat minority. Stuff like that takes away any credibility on claims of fiscal conservatism.
You could make a case on corporate cronyism against Hagan. But stuff like this and this takes the wind out of those sails. You could bash Hagan for embracing big government environmentalist crap. But then, Thom has too.
A big factor is likeability. Here in Moore County, we used to be part of the Sixth District and were represented by Howard Coble. A lot of us gave Coble a pass on his moderate voting record because he was likeable and responsive. Talk to people who KNOW Thom Tillis. Talk to people who have interacted with Kay Hagan. I hear plenty of stories from Republican-leaners about her responsiveness and likeability. I hear a lot of stories about Tillis threatening / intimidating people (or even primarying them) if they don’t see things his way.
Many of us on the right KNOW that we’re going to take a hit at the end of the election. If Tillis is unsuccessful, the Tea Party will be blamed. Never mind that Tillis has refused to approach or try to mend fences with Tea Party folks. Upon a Tillis loss, the media will blame “right-wing extremism.” Never mind that Tillis fought hard against most of the actual conservative legislation that passed the General Assembly. The GOP establishment will argue that we on the right need to be thrown overboard. We’re weighing the GOP down. Never mind that conservatism and its believers are responsible for nearly all the modern-day success of the GOP.
Another factor: Too much defense. Theam Tillis has spent way too much time responding to Hagan. In football, keeping your defense on the field more than your offense is a good indicator that things will not end well.
Many of us are looking for a reason to line up behind Tillis. But a campaign talking about committee attendance, paper routes, autism, birth control, and “replacing” ObamaCare makes it hard. A principled conservative campaign can produce positive results in North Carolina. Just ask Dan Forest.