During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union sat for years with thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at each other. The reason the Cold War stayed cold was that these warheads created a state of mutually assured destruction between the two super powers.
Mutual assured destruction, or mutually assured destruction (MAD), is a doctrine of military strategy and national security policy in which a full-scale use of high-yield weapons of mass destruction by two or more opposing sides would cause the complete annihilation of both the attacker and the defender. It is based on the theory of deterrence where the threat of using strong weapons against the enemy prevents the enemy's use of those same weapons.
As the clock ticks down on the North Carolina US Senate race, the campaigns of Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis seem to have settled into a similar faceoff. For an race that could decide control of the Senate during the last two years of the Obama presidency, the race has remained decidedly timid. Even with each side given opportunities to go on the attack over the past week, both sides have remained gun-shy.
First, at the beginning of last week this story broke on WCNC about fishy sounding connections between donations to the Thom Tillis campaign from folks who could benefit from the I-77 HOT Lanes project - a project that Thom Tillis long supported. It's a 6 minute segment - an eternity for local news. It also starts with something all but unprecedented. WCNC reporter, Stuart Watson says right up front in the video that he got the tip for the story from "opposition research" - or in other words the Hagan campaign.
Usually, reporters protect their sources. Usually, a source like this would demand anonymity. In this case however, the source wanted the Tillis campaign to know exactly where it originated. This story didn't come from a single underpaid and overworked reporter at WCNC. It originated from an organization with millions of dollars at its disposal and the single-minded purpose of beating Thom Tillis - an organization with the means and motivation to find more dirt if necessary.
The story was a deterrent.
By the end of last week it became clear why it was needed.
On Thursday, Politico broke this story about Kay Hagan's husband owning a company that directly benefited from some economic stimulus funds - $390,000 to be exact. The story is bad, really bad. That's evidenced by some more details added by the Washington Post the next day which show the Hagan team has brought in a fixer with connections all the way to the White House to help manage it.
Both of these stories could have attack adds that all but right themselves. In both cases, if either contender was not afraid of their opponent's potential response, either of these stories could deal a knockout blow. So far though, neither campaign has flooded the airwaves with commercials using these story lines. The hard hitting commercials, the nuclear weapons of major political campaigns, have remained in their silos.
Without those commercials the only people who know about these stories are the political junkies and the partisans.
So, why have they remained silent?
Mutually Assured Destruction based on the whiff of corruption. Don't expose mine or I'll destroy you with yours is the message. However, unlike during the Cold War where M.A.D ensured there was no winner or loser, in November one of these two candidates will be the next US Senator from North Carolina.