MOST MODERATE: Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., left, speaks to supporters as former Secretary of State of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reacts during a campaign rally in Charlotte on Saturday.
By John Trump | Watchdog.org
In a North Carolina Senate race characterized by seemingly ubiquitous and accusatory ads, Democrat Kay Hagan touts herself as a moderate lawmaker willing to compromise and capitulate.
She’s the “most moderate,” in fact, and she’s not afraid to say it.
Hagan, who surprised Republican stalwart Elizabeth Dole in 2008, faces state House speaker Thom Tillis.
The National Journal released its rankings naming her the Senate’s most moderate member in February, and Hagan’s campaign is making good use of it in October.
National Journal, its website says, “examined all of the roll-call votes in the first session of the 113th Congress — 641 in the House and 291 in the Senate — and identified the ones that show ideological distinctions between members.”
There’s a couple of ways to look at this. Voters, the campaign would hope, think of Hagan as a leader who keeps their best interests at heart by solving problems through negotiation and compromise. Or, voters see her as a chronic follower more willing to capitulate and surrender than to fight and to win.
Or, maybe — and most probably — she’s trying to distance herself from President Obama. After all, Obama is persona not grata among fellow Dems these days, an appearance Tuesday with gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke a seeming anomaly. Obama will make a few appearances before the election, but he’s keeping to friendly venues and appearing mostly with candidates who hold comfortable leads, the New York Times says.
“President Obama is campaigning only where he can help — not hurt — Democratic candidates,” NPR reports. “That isn’t very many places. But it does include some governors’ races, like in Wisconsin.”
In an interview with NBC’s Kasie Hunt, Hagan was non-committal when Hunt asked her whether Obama was an effective leader. Hagan, it seems clear, not only wants to distance herself from Tillis, but from Obama, too, although the senator did welcome Hillary Clinton for a rally Sunday in Charlotte.
“Senator Hagan is one of many Democratic candidates this year to be targeted by ads trying to link them to the president and the president’s policies, such as the health-care law and stimulus bill,” says John Dinan, a professor of politics at Wake Forest University.
“This is quite similar to the situation in 2006, when Republican candidates faced countless Democratic ads trying to link them to President Bush and the Iraq War. One approach taken by Democratic candidates this year has been to emphasize the occasional issues where they have shown independence from President Obama, such as supporting the Keystone Pipeline.
“Another approach for Democratic candidates has been to try to shift the focus of the campaign from national issues to local issues, such as by trying to link Republican candidates with controversial or unpopular state policies.”
Hagan, though often siding with Obama and most Democrats, falls within the top 20 percent among Senate Democrats in joining bipartisan bills and in the top half among all senators in regard to writing bipartisan bills, according to govtrack.us. She supports Obamacare and raising the federal minimum wage yet has eschewed the most liberal efforts to control guns.
“Kay has shown time and again that she doesn’t care if it’s a Republican idea or a Democratic idea — if it’s good for North Carolina she will work with anyone to move our state forward,” Sadie Weiner, Hagan campaign communications director, said in a statement. “While others are more interested in playing partisan games, Kay is focused on finding bipartisan solutions and standing up for North Carolina families.”
The N.C. GOP counterpunched: “During her six years in the Senate, Hagan has rubber-stamped the Obama agenda 95 (percent) of the time. She cast the deciding vote for Obamacare and signed off on Obama’s massive tax increases and $7 trillion in debt. That kind of record shows that Hagan is no ‘moderate’ as she claims in the ad. She’s just a liberal Senator willing to say anything to distract from her liberal priorities and a record that is highlighted by a lack of accomplishments for North Carolina.”
John Hood is president and chairman of the John Locke Foundation, an independent think tank based in Raleigh promoting individual liberty and limited, constitutional government. Members of Congress, he said, are polarized by partisan allegiance, more so than in the past, so saying one is the “most moderate” Democrat or Republican is a “rather silly exercise.”
“The vast majority of Democrats vote with the president and the liberal line the vast majority of the time. Republican voting behavior is similarly stacked up. So it is actually possible for Hagan to be the ‘most moderate’ Dem and still vote reliably left on most issues.
“The real dynamic in this race is that neither wants to be the incumbent for what appears to be an anti-incumbent electorate. Tillis is running to unseat the incumbent senator, and to challenge the incumbent president. Hagan is essentially running to unseat the incumbent speaker of the state House. Her campaign staff even joked that they had turned it ‘into a school board race’ rather than a Senate race. Of course, if she wins she goes back to Washington, not back to Raleigh.”
Hagan maintains a slight edge in the polls, according to realclearpolitics.com, yet “her lead continues to trickle away,” the site says. “But with only a week to go until Election Day, she may well be able to run out the clock.”
Which is apropos, considering she begins her “Same Team” ad, the one in which she professes to be “so proud” of her reward for moderation, with a nod to North Carolina’s basketball obsession.
“Unless you’re talking basketball,” she says, “you don’t have to pick a team.”
Well, voters kinda do.
“As Republican candidates found in 2006 in a similar environment, it can be difficult to gain separation from a president of your party who is polling badly,” Dinan says. “The question in 2014 is which Democratic candidates will have similar success in gaining independence from the president or localizing their races effectively.”