Michael Bitzer

Political Columnist

Dr. Michael Bitzer is an associate professor of politics and history at Catawba College, where he also serves as the 2011-2012 Swink Professor for Excellence in Classroom Teaching and the chair of the department of history & politics.  A native South Carolinian, he holds graduate degrees in both history and political science from Clemson University and The University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. Dr. Bitzer’s studies have focused on Southern politics, campaigns and elections, and a variety of topics in American politics.

The idyllic vision of political debates is that they serve as an opportunity for the candidates to share their thoughts and ideas on issues of public policy, to engage with their opponents and clearly delineate where they stand from the other side and how they would impact public policy.

While we had a ‘debate’ of sorts on Tuesday and Thursday evenings between incumbent U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and challenger Thom Tillis, what we really got was a gloves-off slugfest of aggressive talking points. In other words, a no-holds brawl rather than a debate.

As we enter the last weeks of the general campaign, North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race has some analysts believing that the Hagan-Tillis battle is defying the normal expectations.

As we head into the final weeks of the general election campaign, attention is turning to who will make up the electorate, with a focus on North Carolina’s fastest-growing voter group: unaffiliated.

The U.S. Senate race between Republican challenger Thom Tillis and Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan seems to be taking a notable shift in tone and approach, seemingly driven by gender.

Never mind that the race is between a man and a woman; the issues, ads, and even the polling have become representative of the classic ‘gender gap’ that surfaces within American politics.

Much has been made about the ‘enthusiasm’ gap that may be prevalent going into this year’s mid-term elections. Traditionally, the party in control of the White House has diminished enthusiasm about voting in mid-term elections. 

With the first debate of the U.S. Senate contest now in the books, we got a clear sense of what we should expect for the final two months of the Tillis-Hagan race: More of the same that we’ve seen for the past several months. 

Going into the debate, the big question seemed to be whether Tillis and Hagan would appeal to their respective electoral bases, or to the middle of the electorate, where the small number of independents may be convinced to finally pay attention two months before the actual election?

Even though the “general” campaign started immediately after Thom Tillis won the May primary, the real general campaign can start in earnest with the end of summer.   

And in the notorious “sixth-year” itch that voters can get against the president’s party, Hagan has added baggage that makes her climb to re-election even harder.

Hagan certainly benefited from the ground game that Obama brought to the state in 2008, but now she has to figure out how to develop a ground game with a president who isn’t on the ballot and has a low approval rating to boot.

Now that we’re entering the home stretch of summer, North Carolinians will come back from the beach, get the kids ready for school, and some may start to pay attention to the looming general election.  So it might be wise to take stock of where things stand in what has been described as a “nondescript, virtually unnoticed, hugely important Senate race” and “the

Much has been made about the recent vote by the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to authorize the Speaker to initiate a lawsuit “regarding the failure of the President … to act in a manner consistent with that official’s duties under the Constitution and laws of the United States with respect to implementation” of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

Now that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down Virginia’s marriage ban for same-sex couples, the question turns from “if” gay marriage will be allowed in North Carolina to “when” it will occur.

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