Monday, July 28, 2014

#NCSEN Off the Critical Path to a Republican Majority?

A lot has been written in the past two weeks about the Republican infighting in Raleigh and the negative impacts it's having on Team Tillis's campaign for the US Senate.  The most current round of that fighting may be coming to an end with reports of a "framework" to end the budget stalemate between the more conservative State Senate and their more moderate counterparts in the Thom Tillis-led House and Governor McCrory's executive branch.

The impact of this infighting on the US Senate race may be overblown, and one can also reasonably discount the most recent polling from Public Policy Polling data showing Kay Hagan's lead increasing.  The mainstream media and the Democratic pollster both have vested interests in pushing the current incumbent.

But what happens if the NC Senate seat becomes less important overall to the national Republicans and their big money allies in their quest to gain control of the US Senate?

At least one leading analyst sees the North Carolina race dropping in importance to the Republicans capturing the Senate this November, and that's a sentiment that could not come at a worse time for Team Tillis.  The Tillis Senate campaign has fallen way behind Kay Hagan in direct fundraising.  If that kind of thinking takes hold among the big-money donors to the Tillis Campaign, the same donors who helped buy the Republican Primary, that could mean real trouble down the road.

Larry Sabato of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia had this to say in his Crystal Ball post for last week regarding the current election cycle.  (Emphasis added.)

"Earlier in the cycle, we suggested that the winner of two of these three Democratic-held states would be in great shape to win the Senate: Alaska, Louisiana, and North Carolina, which we have long categorized as Toss-ups. But now that may not be the case: Democrats, in particular, could win two of these three and still narrowly lose the Senate. Of the seven states won by Mitt Romney in 2012 where Democrats are defending seats — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia — it appears that the Democrats are doing best in Alaska and North Carolina. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) is running an excellent campaign, and the favored candidate of national Republicans, former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan, has been stuck in a long primary slog against Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) and 2010 GOP nominee Joe Miller (R). Sullivan is catching it from both Democrats and his fellow Republicans right now, and some Republicans are worried that he’ll be so damaged he won’t be able to catch Begich, assuming he wins the Aug. 19 primary.

Meanwhile, it appears Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) has taken a small lead on state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R), who may be losing points with voters because the unpopular state legislature’s session is in overtime. Hagan and Tillis both have weak numbers — so weak that a Libertarian with some amusing YouTube uploads, Sean Haugh, is polling in the mid-to-high single digits.

Both of these races remain Toss-ups, but Democrats look slightly better positioned in both at this point. Our “best two out of three” argument from earlier this cycle might be inoperative because Iowa is now so competitive. At this point, the most plausible path to a bare Republican majority of 51-49 looks like this: Beat incumbents in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Montana, and win open seats in Iowa, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Hence the Hawkeye State’s increased importance in the Senate landscape."

Notice, North Carolina does not make the cut in this list.

Last week there were also other events that do not bode well for the Tillis Campaign if either of these stories gain traction later in the election season.  First, by the Tuesday deadline, it appear three candidates made the official write-in list for the US Senate Race.  The DailyHaymaker blog has the details here.  Then on Thursday the I77 HOT Lanes story once again made the news.  This time raising the possibility of a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the project. has that story here.

In an extremely tight race either of these stories could sway things just enough to have an impact.

If that impact comes in the form of any reduction in dark money for Team Tillis in favor of a race perceived to be more winnable such as the one in Iowa, that could prove decisive.

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