#NCSEN: Are Dems giving Thom Tillis the “Todd Akin Treatment”?





Until now, it’s been easy to draw comparisons between the 2014 US Senate GOP primary  in North Carolina and the 2010 Kentucky GOP Senate primary, featuring a doctor — and political novice — and a seasoned, well-funded state government official.  The latest developments are starting to make me think more about the 2012 Missouri US Senate race.

A PAC tied to US Senate Majority Leader “Dingy Harry” Reid has come out with an interesting ad:

It’s probably not the primary endorsement state House Speaker Thom Tillis was looking for.

Democratic super PAC Senate Majority has made a second large ad buy on behalf of incumbent U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who’s facing what’s likely to be a tough re-election fight in 2014, and it seems to be making a bet on who her Republican challenger will be.

While the PAC’s first spot for Hagan last month didn’t mention an opponent, the new one calls out Tillis by name. 

After praising Hagan for supporting facets of the Affordable Care Act – the ad never mentions the law by name – it pivots quickly to attack.

“I’ve read that Speaker Thom Tillis sides with insurance companies,” the actors say. “He’d let insurance companies deny coverage if I get sick. Thom Tillis, what about us?” 

Senate Majority spokesman Ty Matsdorf confirmed to WRAL News that the group is spending around $750,000 for a two-week ad buy across the state. 

When asked why they’re going after Tillis, Matsdorf replied, “Because he has been the most brazen about attacking Medicare, and North Carolina voters deserve to know where he stands.”

Tillis, an outspoken opponent of the Affordable Care Act,  is considered the current front-runner in the five-way GOP primary. He has the support of establishment Republicans like master strategist Karl Rove, who headlined three North Carolina fundraisers in November for Tillis’ Senate run.

However, the primary is still five months away, and Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte appears to be gaining some momentum among the state’s more conservative Republican voters.

Tillis is already using the new ad to raise money. He.tweeted Thursday afternoon that “It is a badge of honor to be attacked by Harry Reid,” the Senate majority leader. […]

The front-runner?  Hmm. The most recent polling has Cary physician Greg Brannon as the only Republican leading Kay Hagan (even though it is only by one percent, and within the margin of error).  Theam Tillis has the money to do their own polling.  If they have better numbers, they sure aren’t sharing them (for some reason).  If I had numbers showing me running away with the Senate race, I’d put them out there. 

Brannon is running second place to Tillis in the primary’s overall money race.  And we’re pitching this race as Tillis vs. Harris ?

This whole strategy of Democrats attacking a candidate in the GOP primary as “too conservative” sounded awfully familiar to me.  I did some thinking — and Googling — and came up with this from 2012:

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Democratic outside groups, pouring in over $1 million during Missouri’s Republican Senate primary, got the guy they wanted: Rep. Todd Akin, who Tuesday upset two other Republicans to take the GOP nomination.

Recent polls have shown McCaskill trailing all three Republicans in head-to-head matchups, but Akin has the smallest edge. She is betting voters will see the six-term congressman — who gave “thanks to God our creator” in his victory speech and has been endorsed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an evangelical Christian — as too conservative.

Late in the primary, McCaskill hit TV and radio airwaves “criticizing” Akin, seen at right, as too conservative, a thinly veiled attempt to boost his chances in a primary where the GOP’s right wing would have a disproportionate impact. The radio ad was paid for by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. […]

And we can’t forget this:

Claire McCaskill got her wish after all.

Rep. Todd Akin — a six-term social conservative whom the vulnerable Democratic senator helped promote to GOP voters because she thought she had the best chance of beating him — won the Republican primary Tuesday night over two rivals. […]

Hmmmm.  A vulnerable female Democrat senator pulls her chestnuts out of the fire thanks to a GOP primary where the Tea Party was bitterly divided between two candidates, and a candidate, who was basically low-hanging fruit, was the last man standing.

Wait, you say.  Why would Hagan want to run against Thom Tillis, speaker of the state House and leader of Raleigh’s “conservative revolution”?  He’s got quite a cult following in Raleigh and in parts of Mecklenburg County.  But step outside of those venues, and you find a little of everything from lack-of-name-ID to sheer anger.  Tillis has done a GREAT job of infuriating folks within the GOP ranks.  Talk to grassroots leaders in Beaufort, Craven, and Davidson counties, for starters.    (Polling has his favorable-unfavorable-unsure at 16-28-56.  Absolutely stellar.)

Tillis got his start in Raleigh by primarying a conservative favorite, with encouragement and support from Richard Morgan.   He’s got folks in his home county hopping mad over his passion for HOT lanes and toll roads.

Outside of his internal party issues, Tillis also has personnel matters — staffers, including his chief of staff and roommate, sexing lobbyists — and “business” / legislative issues (Aquesta, bail bonds, UNC board of governors,  payday lendingTime Warner, et al.) swirling around him.  He’s an opposition research operative’s dream come true.   With Tillis, there is a whole lot to discuss — to distract from Kay Hagan’s ObamaCare advocacy and lovefest with Chuck Schumer  — during a general election campaign.