The Party Line

With the first four days of in-person early voting under way, the number of voters showing up to cast ballots in North Carolina indicates that there appears to be an energy level that may be running against the grain of conventional wisdom.

With three weeks to go, a lot of prognostication is going on in the political analysis universe.

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?

Courtesy of Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis

Senator Kay Hagan and Speaker Thom Tillis meet in Raleigh tonight for their first televised debate. Political debates can make or break candidates no matter the office, and this one comes when polls show the candidates are in a statistical tie.

Both Hagan and Tillis have spent the last few days preparing for tonight’s oratorical prizefight. That’s why we asked the press secretary from both camps to help us with the pre-game. Meghan Burris is with "Team Tillis," Chris Hayden is with "Team Hagan."

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.