The Seduction of Exceptionalism: Secret to Forecasting Thom Tillis’ Upset Victory over Kay Hagan in America’s Most Expensive U.S. Senate Race

by johndavis, November 24, 2014

November 24, 2014        Vol. VII, No. 29         2:13 pm I had a secret forecasting advantage on January 10, 2014, when I titled the John Davis Political Report, Vol. VII, No. 2, North Carolina’s U.S. Senate Race: Numbers Say Republican Thom Tillis is Likely to Upset Kay Hagan. A secret advantage a year in the making.
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November 24, 2014        Vol. VII, No. 29         2:13 pm

I had a secret forecasting advantage on January 10, 2014, when I titled the John Davis Political Report, Vol. VII, No. 2, North Carolina’s U.S. Senate Race: Numbers Say Republican Thom Tillis is Likely to Upset Kay Hagan. A secret advantage a year in the making.

A forecasting advantage so significant that during the ten months of writing dozens of political reports during 2014 about what became the most expensive U.S. Senate race in American history, I never wavered in my prediction that Thom Tillis, Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, would win an upset victory over U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat.

The secret to my forecasting advantage began on January 5, 2013, the day Republican Pat McCrory was sworn in as the 74th Governor of North Carolina.

I was sitting in my den by the fire watching live television coverage of the historic swearing-in ceremony taking place in the Senate Chamber of the Old State Capitol in Raleigh. Historic because not since the post-Civil War era had North Carolina state government been led by a Republican Governor, a Republican President Pro Tempore of the Senate presiding over a Republican majority, and a Republican Speaker of the House presiding over a Republican majority … all at the same time.

Although this was a first-in-a-lifetime event worthy of my undivided attention, I was distracted by concerns over what I would write about in 2013. After all, I had regular readers of my political report who were counting on something of value about North Carolina politics every two weeks.

Then, from out of the pomp and circumstance of the swearing-in, I had an epiphany. It was the question, I wonder how long Republicans will be the dominant political party in North Carolina? What would it take for them to hold sway over state government like the Democrats before them?

No sooner had the question of Republican political longevity entered my mind, than the obvious counter question emerged. What would it take for Democrats to recover politically and regain their standing as the dominant political party in North Carolina?

Now I knew what I would write about in 2013.

Little did I know in January 2013, that a year-long quest for answers to those two questions would give me a secret advantage in forecasting North Carolina’s 2014 race for U.S. Senate.

Keys to Political Longevity for North Carolina Republicans

On Friday, January 11, 2013, I began a 10-part series titled Keys to Political Longevity for North Carolina Republicans, a series that ended on May 8, 2013.

For four months, I interviewed dozens of the most influential political minds in the state on the topic of what it would take for Republicans to keep their power over state government.

My interviews included former Republican elected officials and consultants, political reporters and university professors of political science. I talked to Republican financial backers, former Republican administration heads, Republican pollsters and North Carolina Republican Party leaders.

I began the series with a caution: Always remember that you are vulnerable.

A caution about the danger of the seduction of exceptionalism.

After the series on the Keys to Republican Political Longevity, I began a 10-part series titled, Keys to Political Recovery for North Carolina Democrats.

For four months, from June 6, 2013 to October 7, 2013, I interviewed dozens of influential Democrats on the topic of what it would take for North Carolina Democrats to reestablish their standing as a powerhouse in North Carolina politics.

My interviews included a former Democratic governor, leading Democratic consultants and former elected officials, political reporters and university professors of political science. I talked to Democratic financial backers, Democratic pollsters and leaders of the state Democratic Party.

I began the 10-part series with a report on the importance of reestablishing ideological balance in the Democratic legislative caucuses in order to restore the party’s mutually beneficial and long-standing relationship with the state’s business community.

I ended the series with a caution: Always remember that you are vulnerable.

A caution about the danger of the seduction of exceptionalism.

Secret Measurements: Ten for Hagan; Ten for Tillis

I had a secret forecasting advantage on January 10, 2014, when I titled the second John Davis Political Report of the year, Vol. VII, No. 2, North Carolina’s U.S. Senate Race: Numbers Say Republican Thom Tillis is Likely to Upset Kay Hagan.

I also used that secret advantage on January 3, 2014, when I wrote the following in the first John Davis Political Report of the year, Vol. VII, No. 1, North Carolina’s 2014 Political Preview:

Imagine waking up the morning after General Election Day 2014 with a Republican Governor, a Republican majority state Senate and House, a Republican majority state Supreme Court, a Republican majority Court of Appeals, a 10-3 Republican U.S. House delegation and two Republican U.S. Senators joining Republican majorities in both the U.S. Senate and House in Washington, DC. If you are a member of the GOP, or if you prefer conservative solutions to problems, nothing could be finer. If you are a Democrat … ummmm, need I say more?

It happened.

A year of interviewing the most influential members of the Republican and Democratic parties in North Carolina during 2013 had given me a unique advantage in forecasting the likely winner in the Hagan-Tillis race in 2014.

I had secret measurements. Ten for Hagan. Ten for Tillis.

My secret measurements for the state Democratic Party told me that they were structurally incapable of helping Kay Hagan win her campaign for U.S. Senate. That they were so divided and disorganized that they would ultimately be her undoing.

I had a secret measurement that led me to the conclusion that Democrats were being led into 21st Century political combat by old generals fighting the last war. A secret measurement that helped me see that Hagan was relying on backward-looking stale, 20th century issues rather than forward-looking dynamic issues that would inspire voters with great possibilities.

I also had a secret measurement to determine if Republicans were showing signs of self-destruction. Danger signals of a sense of invulnerability. I found a well-organized, well-led army taking nothing for granted.

The eight months of interviewing Republican and Democrat leaders in North Carolina in 2013 gave me the confidence to call the race for a Tillis upset on January 10, 2014.

Who Wins the Most Expensive U.S. Senate Race on a Level Battlefield?

North Carolina’s 2014 U.S. Senate race between Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican Tom Tillis, Speaker of the North Carolina House, was the most expensive in history. Over $130 million was spent by the candidates and their allies, with $100 million spent independently by national groups totally out of reach of the candidates and their campaign professionals.

Yet the campaign began and ended in a virtual tie. The brightest of political operatives could not seize a sure lead. The smartest pundits doubted their own judgment as to the likely outcome.

Thom Tillis was number one on the list of the “Most Attacked” U.S. Senate candidates by outside groups, with $35,569,285 spent on negative TV ads. Ads that said he was too conservative; that as leader of the North Carolina House he was responsible for cutting $500 million out of the state’s education budget. Ads that said he cut Planned Parenthood; that he was no friend of women.

Kay Hagan was also on the list of the “Most Attacked” candidates by outside groups in 2014, with $20,916,901 spent on negative TV ads. Ads that said she was too liberal; that she voted with President Obama 95% of the time. The deciding vote on Obamacare. That she skipped out on an Armed Services Committee meeting and went to a fundraiser in New York in the middle of national concern about ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism becoming a threat here at home.

Despite it all, after $130 million was spent, the race was tied on the eve of Election Day. Tied because in North Carolina, the number of voters likely to vote Republican or Democratic is tied.

Tied because the number of white urban moderates, African-Americans, single women, independents, young people and emerging minorities inclined to vote Democratic is equal to the number of white suburban and rural conservatives, married women, independents, older people and emerging minorities inclined to vote Republican.

North Carolina is tied just like the nation is tied. That’s why the lessons learned from the Hagan-Tillis U.S. Senate race inform both state and national Democrats and Republicans about the importance of new partisan branding for 21st Century American politics. About the importance of 21st Century battles being led by forward-thinking 21st Century generals.

About the danger of the seduction of exceptionalism.

- End –

 

May You Have the Happiest of Thanksgiving Holidays!

And, Thank You for Reading the John Davis Political Report

 JND SignatureJohn N. Davis

 

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