Morning Memo: A different look at NC’s Senate race

Posted by John Frank on January 17, 2014 

North Carolina political consultant John Davis says he sees a Kay Hagan-Thom Tillis showdown in the U.S. Senate race and expects Tillis to win.

In his recent subscriber-only Political Report, Davis said it’s in the numbers. For starters, he says, the landscape isn’t good for Hagan. No N.C. Democrat has won a second term in the U.S. Senate since 1968, the party is “in shambles,” polls show it tied, midterms aren’t kind to the White House and Hagan told the lie of the year when it came to healthcare.

“So, if it comes down to a race between Sen. Kay Hagan and Speaker Thom Tillis, it is highly likely that the two equally capable and equally funded combatants will be surrounded by equally savvy consultants and have the backing of equally malicious super PACs,” he writes. “Which brings me back to those facts and numbers (above), and why I believe that Thom Tillis is likely to upset Kay Hagan in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race.”

Davis tries to give the race an independent eye but he obviously puts stock in the current GOP power structure. His bold prediction counters many Washington prognosticators. And he sees another dynamic that defies the conventional wisdom: Hagan cannot count on a divided Republican Party.

“Of course, the great hope of Brannon/Harris/Flynn/Grant is to force a primary runoff by ganging up on Tillis with enough outside super PAC attack ads that keep his vote below 40 percent,” he writes. “However, the odds are greater that they will splinter the hard right conservatives and Tillis will parlay a sizable cash and organizational advantage into a primary victory on May 6, 2014.

“Tillis’ legislative accomplishments are such that it will simply be too difficult for any Republican to get very far with an attempt to discredit his commitment to the conservative cause. In other words, even his on primary detractors will not likely stay divided against him for long. They want to defeat Hagan.” (Read his full report here.)

Whether he proves correct on this latter point, is the story to watch in the coming months.

*** Get a full roundup of North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo. And a note to readers: the Memo will return Tuesday after the holiday.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will hold a 9 a.m. event to release “Ready NC,” an emergency management smartphone app. At noon, he will attend a state employee gathering at a Raleigh church to remember Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and present the John R. Larkins Award, one of state government’s highest honors.

The State Board of Community Colleges meets at 9 a.m. in Raleigh.

McCRORY SAYS N.C. WILL AVOID PUNISHMENT ON FOOD STAMPS: From his visit to Wilson, as reported by the Wilson Times, the governor said his discussions with the federal government “will at least stop any ramifications for future steps on food stamps.”

From the Times story: McCrory said the way the federal government handled the problem was not a way of cooperating with the state. But McCrory did not say if the warning from the federal government was warranted.

"Threatening the denial of food stamps for our citizens is unacceptable at a time when the states are actually trying to figure out the federal regulations and the constant changes. For them to send a threatening letter was not a productive or constructive move, especially for those who need the food stamps,” McCrory said.

McCrory said the presidential aide told him the federal government would work with North Carolina. "We plan in the future for good positive cooperation as opposed to threatening letters which would have a severe impact on North Carolinians in need of those stamps,” McCrory said. Read more here.

A NOTE TO DENR EMPLOYEES: Amid the reorganization, new employee performance tracking system and layoffs at the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Secretary John Skvarla is delivering a message to employees:

“I would encourage everyone to include the following measurable goal in your Employee Performance Plan: “Smile, be happy, have fun, and enjoy the process.” If every day can begin with this mind-set we can accomplish anything!”

SHOULD OBAMA LOOK TO McCRORY’S ECONOMIC MESSAGE? From the National Journal -- President Obama heads for North Carolina on Wednesday, a state whose Republican governor seems to have swiped the president's feel-good message on the economy out from under him before he's even been able—or willing—to use it.

With Obama set to offer another sober dose of reality in a speech about how the recovery has fallen short, Gov. Pat McCrory has been declaring a "great Carolina comeback" due—naturally—to GOP policies, not anything out of the White House.

And yet, there's still no sign from the administration that the president is prepared to strike a sunnier tone on the economy. Read more here.

DEMOCRATS USE LAWSUIT TO POINT AT WOS: “We’ve said from the beginning, the challenges facing DHHS are not about politics, they’re about people,” Senate Democratic leader Martin Nesbitt said in a statement. “And thanks to the continued failures of the McCrory administration, people have been hurt. In this case, doctors were being put of business. They’ve been shouting for help, but Governor McCrory refuses to demand a plan from his appointees to solve these problems – and so now doctors are forced to sue. This is no way to govern.” Read more here.

HAGAN SUPPORTS LESS POULTRY PLANT OVERSIGHT: If the Obama administration gives the green light, soon fewer federal inspectors will be present in poultry processing plants, and the lines will be allowed to speed up, a change that critics say could be risky for both food and worker safety.

Poultry is a $13 billion industry in North Carolina, and Kay Hagan, the state’s Democratic senator, supports the changes and has urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to make them final. The state’s other senator, Republican Richard Burr, has not taken a position.

By law, an inspector must check each poultry carcass for defects and visible contamination. The new plan would replace most federal inspectors on poultry processing lines with company workers who would watch for defects as chicken and turkey carcasses zip through. The move would mean more control over the inspection process for companies, enabling them to increase profits by processing birds faster. Read more here.

SENATE APPROVES BUDGET: Congress sent President Barack Obama a $1.1 trillion government-wide spending bill Thursday, easing the harshest effects of last year's automatic budget cuts after tea party critics chastened by October's partial shutdown mounted only a faint protest.

The Senate voted 72-26 for the measure, which cleared the House a little more than 24 hours earlier on a similarly lopsided vote. Obama's signature on the bill was expected in time to prevent any interruption in government funding Saturday at midnight. Read more here.

FRANK ROCHE HITS ELLMERS ON BUDGET: Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers’ support of the budget is drawing criticism from her GOP primary rival Frank Roche: "The majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, including North Carolina's 2nd District Representative Renee Ellmers, passed another irresponsible budget yesterday,” he said in a statement. “The $1.1 trillion bill, 1,582 pages long, is more of the same: more deficits, and more debt."

HOW WALTER JONES BECAME HIS PARTY’S CONSCIENCE: U.S. Rep. Walter Jones is getting good press from The American Conservative in a piece titled “Walter Jones’s War.”

It starts: “In a Capitol filled with bloviating self-promoters, Walter Jones is a soft-spoken Southern gentleman. But even though he has all the quiet charm of a sleepy country town, the ten-term North Carolina Republican is quite capable of righteous indignation.

“Congress will not hold anyone to blame,” Jones, now 70, said of America’s Middle Eastern wars while speaking to Young American for Liberty in Raleigh last February. “Lyndon Johnson’s probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War, and he probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney.” Read more here.

McINTYRE RAISED CAMPAIGN CASH UNTIL THE END: From WECT --Rep. Mike McIntyre continued to raise money for a re-election campaign in the weeks before he announced intentions to retire from the House of Representatives at the end of his current term.

The "Mike McIntyre for Congress" Committee filed its 2013 year-end finance report with the Federal Elections Commission on Thursday. The report shows McIntyre's committee raised $184,220 in the 4th quarter of 2013, including $167,021 from Political Action Committees. Read more here.

McCRORY’S EMBRACE OF HUNT DRAWS A CRITIC: From conservative blogger Brant Clifton: What good is it to elect an R who is going to push for — and vote for — things that a D in that same position would have? Read more here.

THE N.C. SENATE CANDIDATES ON IMMIGRATION: For the Republican candidates seeking to run against Sen. Kay Hagan, the first priority is border security. And second priority and ninth priority. No one seems to be using the term “ self-deportation,” which didn’t work so great for Mitt Romney in 2012. But there doesn’t seem to be any enthusiasm for talking about comprehensive solutions to the problem of 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally, including an estimated 370,000 in North Carolina neighborhoods. Read more here.

N.C. COLLEGE LEADERS JOIN OBAMA EFFORT: The leaders of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University and Davidson College joined a White House education summit on Thursday made up of schools and philanthropies that pledged to take new steps to help more low-income students succeed in college.

“We wouldn’t be in higher education if we didn’t believe higher education is critically important to the success of the country,” North Carolina State Chancellor Randy Woodson told the gathering. “And we can’t be successful if the only people accessing our education are those with financial means. So we’ve just got to continue to work hard to help young people see their future.” Read more here.

EVA CLAYTON ENDORSES ALMA ADAMS: The race to replace Mel Watt in Congress continues even with the special election delayed. Former Congresswoman Eva Clayton is picking state Rep. Alma Adams as her horse in the race. “I am endorsing Alma because she has and will continue to fight for the middle class, world-class public schools, increasing the minimum wage, affordable health care, women’s rights, and creative approaches to generating high paying jobs in North Carolina,” she said in a statement released by the Adams campaign.

QUICK HITS ---

Women are wielding notable influence in Congress. Read more here.

Koch Brothers Are Outspending Everyone for a GOP Senate Takeover. Read more here.

One more interview from CNBC of Pat McCrory’s cable TV rounds this week. See it here.

Esquire: “Pat McCrory, governor of the newly insane state of North Carolina” Read more here.

Workplace deaths decline again in North Carolina. Read more here.

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