North Carolina’s U.S. Senate Race: Numbers Say Republican Thom Tillis is Likely to Upset Kay Hagan January 10, 2014 Vol. VII, No. 2 2:13 pm NOTE: This report on North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race assumes that incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan will face Thom Tillis, Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House. I am
North Carolina's U.S. Senate Race: Numbers Say Republican Thom Tillis is Likely to Upset Kay Hagan
January 10, 2014 Vol. VII, No. 2 2:13 pm
NOTE: This report on North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race assumes that incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan will face Thom Tillis, Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House.
I am a political numbers junkie with no personal or professional relationship with the likely candidates in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race, Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat, and Thom Tillis, Republican Speaker of the House. In making my determination that Tillis is likely to upset Hagan, I did not talk to the candidates or their campaign professionals. I listened only to facts.
- No North Carolina Democrat has won a second term in the U.S. Senate since 1968
- Mid-term elections do not favor the party in the White House, Democrats
- The NC Democratic Party is in shambles; the GOP has power and strong leaders
- Both candidates are equally smart, competitive and capable of raising money
- Polls show the race tied with Hagan at 44% and Tillis at 42%
- For every “extreme right” attack ad that Hagan or her super PACs run against Tillis, he and his super PACs can counter with equally damaging “extreme left” attack ads
- Hagan will be on the defensive throughout 2014 for telling PolitiFact’s 2013 Lie of the Year, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it."
Thanks to Project Vote Smart, a non-partisan source of legislative voting records, there are literally hundreds of evaluations of Senator Kay Hagan’s votes in the Senate. The evaluations I trust the most are those done by the National Journal, a non-partisan publication that has rated members of Congress for four decades. Hagan’s “Composite Conservative Score” is 44.7%; her “Composite Liberal Score” is 55.3%.
A comparative sample of evaluations from Project Vote Smart shows the stark ideological divide between the two candidates. Here are a few evaluations of Sen. Kay Hagan:
- Planned Parenthood (Abortion) 2013 Rating 100%
- American Civil Liberties Union of NC 2011 Rating 75%
- NC League of Conservation Voters 2012 Rating 84%
- Nat’l Fed of Independent Business 2011 Rating 37%
- National Rifle Association 2008 Rating 0%
Here are Speaker Thom Tillis’ evaluations on the same issues:
- Planned Parenthood (Abortion) 2011 Rating 0%
- American Civil Liberties Union of NC 2011 Rating 0%
- NC League of Conservation Voters 2013 Rating 0%
- Nat’l Fed of Independent Business 2010 Rating 100%
- National Rifle Association 2012 Rating 100%
What Democrats see as “extreme” legislative accomplishments, in fact, give Tillis the firepower to assure Republicans of his conservative bona fides and argue for a likely primary win.
Democrats’ legislative nightmare in 2013 is a Republican dream in 2014
The entire 20th Century ticked by with North Carolina Republicans never once having the state government power to out-muscle the Democrats on the laws of the day. Only twice in the 20th Century did the GOP have the governor’s mansion. Governors Jim Holshouser (1973-1977) and Jim Martin (1985-1993) were obstructed at every turn by solid Democratic majorities in the state Senate and House with no veto power to stop them from having their way.
Only one North Carolina Republican in the 20th Century held the House Speaker’s gavel, but Harold Brubaker (1995-1999) was obstructed at every turn by a powerful Senate Democratic caucus and Democratic Governor Jim Hunt (1977-1985; 1993-2001), a shrewd governor with a partisan passion to defeat all things Republican.
But then came the third Wednesday after the second Monday in January 2011, the day fixed by law for the convening of the General Assembly. A Republican Senate majority. A Republican House majority. A weak Democratic governor. When the dust settled at the end of the session, there were 11 veto overrides. Veto overrides that will be remembered on Tuesday, May 6, 2014.
Legislative accomplishments that conservative legends are made of. Abortion. Death penalty. Redistricting. Marriage. Taxes. Teachers union. Fracking. All red meat issues for the Republican primary faithful reveling in the successes of a Republican House and Senate.
Then came the third Wednesday after the second Monday in January 2013. Thom Tillis, Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House. Republican Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. Republican Governor Pat McCrory. Republicans ran roughshod over the Democrats; they treated them as if they were unworthy of notice. Just as the Democrats had always treated them.
Republicans had their way with the laws of the day. Legislative accomplishments that legends are made of. Firearms. Medicaid. Abortions. Taxes. Charter schools. Regulations. Consolidation. Reorganization. Election laws. Cutting programs and services. Republican dreams come true.
Hagan cannot count on a divided Republican Party
I am sure that Kay Hagan’s camp is hoping for feuding super-rich Republicans with their super PACs to divide into three ideological camps in the fight for the GOP nomination, thereby weakening the ultimate victor. And granted, the divisions are real and have begun.
Many state and national establishment Republicans are lining up behind Tillis, like U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and North Carolina Senator Richard Burr. He also has the backing of Karl Rove and his super PAC empire.
Two other potentially viable contenders for the GOP nod, Dr. Greg Brannon, a Cary OB/GYN, and Rev. Mark Harris, a Charlotte Baptist preacher, are attracting their own big names.
Brannon, a Tea Party and pro-life activist, has the backing of national Tea Party rising star Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, as well as conservative RedState blogger Erick Erickson. Harris, former head of the Baptist State Convention, stands to benefit from his leadership role in the 2012 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in North Carolina. He has the backing of Robin Hayes, former GOP congressman and state party chairman. Triad area radio host Bill Flynn and Wilkes County nurse practitioner Heather Grant are also running.
Of course, the great hope of Brannon/Harris/Flynn/Grant is to force a primary runoff by ganging up on Tillis with enough outside super PAC attack ads that keep his vote below 40%. However, the odds are greater that they will splinter the hard right conservatives and Tillis will parlay a sizable cash and organizational advantage into a primary victory on May 6, 2014.
Tillis’ legislative accomplishments are such that it will simply be too difficult for any Republican to get very far with an attempt to discredit his commitment to the conservative cause. In other words, even his on primary detractors will not likely stay divided against him for long. They want to defeat Hagan.
The Shutdown last December taught most Republicans two important lessons: one, bitter ideological divisions hurt them more than the Democrats; two, just saying no without an alternative proposal is not acceptable to most Americans as leadership.
A growing number of Republicans now know that they must get together on alternatives to just saying no. Otherwise, their brand will continue to be seen as callously insensitive to those who are struggling in the face of the new global economy. I suspect that North Carolina’s Republicans leaders, like Tillis, are smart enough to see that handwriting on the wall.
So, if it comes down to a race between Sen. Kay Hagan and Speaker Thom Tillis, it is highly likely that the two equally capable and equally funded combatants will be surrounded by equally savvy consultants and have the backing of equally malicious super PACs.
Which brings me back to those facts and numbers in the first paragraph, and why I believe that Thom Tillis is likely to upset Kay Hagan in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race.
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John N. Davis, Editor