How low will they go? Well, Republican-connected groups probably havent found the bottom of the barrel yet. Its early, after all, in the 2014 campaign against Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.
This much is certain, however. Republicans, including House Speaker Thom Tillis and his people, are perfectly prepared to try to buy the Senate seat with outside dollars, notably from groups associated with the ultraconservative Koch brothers. The two fund front groups to push their agenda while obscuring who is behind the effort.
Even though Tillis has a tough primary fight ahead, the Kochs and their crowd may be betting that the speaker who presided over one of the most destructive legislative sessions in North Carolina history will be the GOP nominee.
Since October, the Kochs Americans for Prosperity has spent $4.2 million on ads in the North Carolina Senate race. Theyre all aimed at slamming Hagan, setting a nasty tone for what is ahead for a senator who has been a middle-ground, diligent lawmaker.
The latest attack ads by Tillis put Hagan in league with President Obama and his health care reform, which the attackers call only Obamacare. Says a Tillis ad, Kay Hagan enabled President Obamas worst ideas. She refuses to clean up his mess.
One contention is that health care premiums are going up because of reform. What Republicans including Tillis dont acknowledge is that they hold some responsibility for that because they didnt set up an independent exchange through which people could get insurance. That means that fewer insurance companies wanted to compete for business in North Carolina under the new health care law, which led to higher prices.
While its true that health care reform as described by Republicans isnt very popular now, its also true that over a million people have signed up for insurance. Now that the federal website through which people can get insurance is working better, there are likely to be millions more on the rolls.
The great Republican fear, is that, as health care reform goes into place, the American people will realize it isnt some big socialist evil, that in fact it will eventually lower premiums and costs and that children and people with pre-existing health problems can get help.
Heres the truth: Americans for Prosperity would be more aptly named For Americans who are Prosperous. It is an opportunistic, right-wing group using health care reform to try to get control of the U.S. Senate and maintain control of the House so that the Koch brothers can see to the deregulation of the energy industries in which theyre involved.
The most insulting thing about these attack ads is that they come in one dimension. Does Tillis have any positive ideas? Does he have any legislative initiatives that might help average Americans or all the nonmillionaires out there?
No. He has been engaged in the politics of destruction, whether it has been cutting public education, attacking teachers, rushing tax breaks for business and the wealthy through the General Assembly or pushing a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage at a time when public opinion is going the other way. (Even Tillis didnt seem very enthusiastic about it, but he caved in to other Republicans.)
With no record of his own to run on, the speaker goes the only way he can: unleashing the attack dogs and letting others do his dirty work.
These ads are not a good forecast of whats to come in a race that national pundits are saying is the most-watched and may be the most expensive Senate race in the country.
Attack ads are cynical politics at its worst, and Hagan is no stranger to it. But the worst thing about this type of politics is that it insults the intelligence of the voters; it treats them like mere pawns in a game. And it cheats them of a straight-ahead, honest discussion of the issues, instead playing to their fears.