Morning Memo: Another day, another big TV ad blitz in Senate race

Posted by John Frank on March 26, 2014 

Expect to see a new onslaught of outside political advertising in North Carolina next month focused on the Senate race.

In a much-anticipated move, American Crossroads reserved time for a $1.1 million ad blitz aimed at the Raleigh and Charlotte media markets in April, a number of Washington publications reported.

The Republican political committee is aligned with strategist Karl Rove, who is supporting House Speaker Thom Tillis’ Senate bid.

The link is leading most to speculate that Crossroads will run advertising supporting Tillis as he tries to fend off seven GOP challengers. The ads could also hit Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan, providing Republicans cover while they battle for the nomination. Or it’s a bluff, a show of force that may not be necessary if Tillis continues to climb in the polls.

Hagan’s campaign is marking Crossroads entry into North Carolina with fanfare – saying it “passes the unprecedented mark of $10 million” spent on the Senate race by “outside, special interest money.”

The campaign specifically noted the roughly $8.3 million already spent by Americans for Prosperity. What it left out is the millions spent by Democratic-aligned groups to boost Hagan, whether the Senate Majority PAC, Patriot Majority USA or others.

So in reality: North Carolina probably hit the $10 million mark a while ago, just another indication Republicans and Democrats are focusing on the race as a key indicator of which party controls the U.S. Senate.

A helpful chart here from the Cook Political Report summarizes the advertising to date.

*** The action goes well beyond the Senate campaign. Get a primer on the top seven races to watch in North Carolina below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend a transportation conference hosted by the N.C. Chamber of Commerce in Durham at noon. Later at 4:15 p.m., he will attend a meeting of the Cooperating Raleigh Colleges leadership at William Peace University. The consortium is a nonprofit that brings together the city’s six colleges.

The committee meetings mentioned in yesterday’s Morning Memo are actually today. (Apologies for the confusion.) The child fatality taskforce’s perinatal health committee meets at 10 a.m. in room 1027 at the legislature.

The legislative oversight committee studying health and human services meets at the same time in room 643 of the legislative office building. The House committee on funeral and cemetery regulations was canceled.

THE BREAK DOWN – THE 7 RACES TO WATCH THIS PRIMARY SEASON: From Rob Christensen’s column – In six weeks, North Carolina primary voters will go to the polls. They will cast their ballots for individuals, but they will be making other choices as well: tea party vs. establishment, celebrity vs. businessman, male vs. female, Charlotte vs. Greensboro, and other choices. Many of the most famous names in American politics are weighing in. Read about the seven races worth watching here.

#NCSEN NEWS –

THE BIG STORY – WHITE HOUSE DELAYS HEALTH CARE DEADLINE: People who’ve started applying for health insurance but aren’t able to finish before the March 31 enrollment deadline will get extra time, the Obama administration announced Tuesday.

“We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment, either online or over the phone,” Health and Human Services spokesman Aaron Albright said.

The White House is scrambling to meet a goal of 6 million signed up through new online markets that offer subsidized private health insurance to people without access to coverage on the job. The HealthCare.gov website got more that 1 million visitors Monday, and the administration also wants to prevent a repeat of website problems that soured consumers last fall. Read more here.

N.C. DEM STRATEGIST ON HAGAN STRATEGY: From National Journal – Thomas Mills, a North Carolina-based Democratic strategist, concurred in a column published Tuesday. Concerned about the one-note Democratic messaging, Mills wrote that Democrats have “ceded the political agenda to the Koch Brothers and the Republicans. They should be attacking GOP policies and candidates, not GOP funders.” Read more here.

ANOTHER TILLIS NO SHOW: But five other candidates seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate attended the forum sponsored by the Rowan County Tea Party Patriots. Read more here.

ANOTHER MESSY GOP PRIMARY STORY: From Talking Points Memo. Read it here.

KAY HAGAN’S FINANCIAL STAKE IN RUSSIAN SANCTIONS: From Huffington Post – Among the senators who backed further sanctions on Monday was another wealthy member, North Carolina Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan, whose net worth in 2013 was reported to be at least $8 million. Hagan owns between $1,001 and $15,000 worth of stock in Mobile Telesystems, the Russian cell phone behemoth. The senator’s office did not immediately answer questions from HuffPost about whether she would be willing to sell the stock, but told HuffPost they were looking into the matter. Read more here.

OOPS! Mitch McConnell gives Duke basketball cameo in campaign ad – not Kentucky . Read more here.

BRANNON SAID HE WAS FIRST GOING TO RUN IN 2009: He made the comment at a forum in Fayetteville. Presumably he would have challenged Republican incumbent Richard Burr in 2010. Read more here.

#NCPOL NEWS –

MUST-KNOW – CLYDE’S TO RELOCATE TEMPORARILY: The downtown barbecue joint in Raleigh can reach a political quorum some days.

The must-know lunch intel: After 76 years, this is the last week to dine at the original Davie Street location of Clyde Cooper’s Barbeque, a downtown Raleigh landmark of slow-cooked pork shoulders, crunchy pig skins and thick, tangy Brunswick stew. Read more here.

THEMS FIGHTIN’ WORDS: Gov. Pat McCrory’s top lawyer says his administration was forced to hire an outside attorney to deal with a federal investigation into its regulation of Duke Energy’s coal ash dumps because the state’s attorney general is politicizing the issue.

Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley said “the letters speak for themselves” and that her office “doesn’t do criminal defense work.”

In an email Tuesday, Stephens said Cooper made a choice to assist the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh with the grand jury investigation “over his elected duty of representing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.”

He was referring to the State Bureau of Investigation which was helping in the investigation. The agency is division of the state Justice Department, which is under Cooper’s direction. Read more here.

A LOOK AT MARCUS BRANDON’S CAMPAIGN – POLITICIAN OR PRAGMATIST: Marcus Brandon is a contrarian. He’s a Democrat who works with Republicans. A progressive once backed by a group reviled by liberals. An African-American who questions black leaders.

He worked for one of his party’s most liberal presidential candidates but later voted to override the veto of a Democratic governor.

Brandon, 39, is a second-term lawmaker and political consultant from High Point. He calls himself “a pragmatic progressive” and has a record of being both. Read more here.

FRANKLIN GRAHAM ON HIS PUTIN REMARK: Franklin Graham has an answer for those turned off by his litany of controversial condemnations of gays and lesbians, Islam and President Barack Obama: He claims he’s only saying what his father would say if Billy Graham, now 95, were a younger man. Read more here.

ANOTHER SKVARLA LETTER: As we’ve documented before, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla is a prolific letter writer, sticking up for the McCrory administration on topics ranging from DHHS to coal ash. In his latest, his bashes the Associated Press and Democratic administrations. Read it here.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Donald Verrilli, the U.S. solicitor general, will deliver the commencement address at the UNC-Chapel Hill law school at 10 a.m. May 10.

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