Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Hagan’s poll numbers stabilize, PPP finds

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s tumble in the polls in recent weeks may have hit bottom. A new Public Policy Polling survey shows the Democrat’s approval rating at 43 percent with 49 percent disapproving in December.

The numbers don’t look good, but they have stabilized from a month ago when her disapproval numbers spiked 10 points amid the botched roll out of the federal healthcare program.

The PPP survey – first released to Dome – still finds her in a dead heat with her Republican rivals, locked at about 43 percent support. Two little-known rivals – Greg Brannon and newcomer Bill Flynn – actually edge Hagan by two points but the advantage is within the 2.7 percent margin of error. Hagan is tied with Mark Harris and holds a two-point edge against Thom Tillis, the two most prominent GOP challengers.

Harris and Tillis still top the GOP primary race, though all the candidates are locked in a statistical dead heat – check Dome later today for more numbers from the Democratic polling firm’s latest survey.

***Get even more #NCSEN and other political headlines below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the N.C. Farm Bureau’s 78th annual convention at 9 a.m. in Greensboro before making an economic development announcement in Person County at 1 p.m.

Two important committee meetings will bring lawmakers to Raleigh: the Revenue Laws Study Committee meets at 9:30 a.m. and the Health and Human Services joint oversight committee meets at 10 a.m.

N.C. DELEGATION TRAVELS TO MANDELA MEMORIAL SERVICE: From Franco Ordonez in Washington -- U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat, is joining nearly two dozen members of Congress traveling to Johannesburg, South Africa to attend a Tuesday memorial services for former President Nelson Mandela. The delegation is being led by Congressman Aaron Schock, R-IL. More than 20 members attending are from the Congressional Black Caucus, including Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield of Wilson.

THE BIG STORY -- White House joins push for North Carolina to expand Medicaid: The White House enlisted two top North Carolina Democrats on Monday to urge Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature to reconsider their opposition to Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

“Medicaid expansion is a smart choice for states,” White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said during a telephone news conference along with Durham Democrats, Mayor Bill Bell and state Sen. Floyd McKissick.

Earnest said that states would save money “over and above the expense of expanding Medicaid.”

The GOP response: The North Carolina legislature voted earlier this year to reject Medicaid expansion under the health care law and McCrory Spokesman Kim Genardo said the governor, a Republican, had no plans to revisit that position by calling a special session of the legislature to consider an expansion. The McCrory administration plans to propose its own reforms to the state’s Medicaid system in the spring. Read more here.

GOP 2016 CONVENTION IN CHARLOTTE? Gov. Pat McCrory told reporters Monday that he will be talking with Charlotte tourism officials next year on whether the city should pursue the 2016 Republican National Convention.

“We’ve got to look at the numbers of how much sweat equity it took to get the last convention and what was the actual return,” said McCrory, a Republican and former Charlotte mayor.

He added that he usually prefers to support conventions that would return to town regularly, but he’s open to making an an exception. The Republican National Committee held its 2013 Winter Meeting in Charlotte in January. A spokeswoman said then that the party would begin the convention site selection process in 2014.

Last year’s Democratic convention brought thousands of visitors and the international spotlight to Charlotte for President Barack Obama’s renomination.

DUANE HALL RAISES MONEY: Raleigh state Rep. Duane Hall, the Democratic freshman leader, is getting a holiday gifts for his campaign account. A fundraiser Wednesday includes a who’s-who host committee that includes Jennifer Weiss, Burley Mitchell, Brad Miller, Bob Jordan, Jim Hunt, Wayne Goodwin, Jon Dehart, Gene Davis and Chris Corchiani. The event is scheduled at the house of Elisabeth and Todd McGowan with the minimum donation $50 and the top level $1,000.

HAGAN RACE MAKES ANOTHER MUST-WATCH LIST: From NBC News -- “Republicans are sure to keep hanging her vote around her neck, but much like Landrieu, look for Hagan and other vulnerable Red State Democrats to be the ones to flee from defending the administration if problems with the program continue.” Read more here.

FROM NPR STORY ON HAGAN RACE -- Two voters show the dichotomy of the Democratic incumbent’s road ahead. From the transcript:

“DALE AUSTIN: Well, I still like Hagan, you know. Right now, unless something changes drastically, that's where I'll be.

(NPR NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT DON) GONYEA: That's 61-year-old Dale Austin. He describes himself as an independent voter. As for Obamacare and what the problems with its website may mean for Senator Hagan...

AUSTIN: Well, that's not her fault. It's not her fault.

GONYEA: But just a block away, 70-year-old Ethel Brown, who's here with her grandkids, puts full blame for Obamacare on Senator Hagan.

ETHEL BROWN: If it had not been for her, we wouldn't have - we wouldn't be having this Obama thing, insurance stuff. She did vote for it.

GONYEA: Then Brown adds something that will be a concern to the Hagan campaign.

BROWN: I'm a Democrat. I'm a registered Democrat, but I don't always vote Democrat. I voted for her. But I wouldn't no more.” Read and listen to the story here.

AUDIT FAULTS McCRORY ADMINISTRATION ON NC TRACKS: The state audit released Monday put a number to all the problems with a new Medicaid claims system that has frustrated hospitals, doctors and other health care providers for months.

NC Tracks has had more than 3,200 defects since the state started using it July 1, according to the report, and more than 600 had not been fixed by Nov. 5.

“Critical” problems have declined, but the number of new “high” and “medium” defects reported each month remained relatively consistent. Defects rated “high” accounted for 74 percent of unfixed problems. The audit period ran from July 1 to Nov. 6.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that 81 percent of the defects have been addressed, and those that are left don’t affect the majority of providers. Read more here.

RELATED: Top officials at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services for months blamed county officials for long delays in processing food stamp applications, though public records show a glitch with a state computer program was the cause. Read more here.

AIR CONDITIONING, BUT FEW LATTES AT ENVIRONMENTAL LAW FIRM: May it please the court of public opinion: The Southern Environmental Law Center concedes that its attorneys work in Chapel Hill offices that might – on certain summer occasions – be regarded as air-conditioned.

But as to the charge of latte-drinking: Not guilty. “They probably drink Coca-Colas and coffee,” Tom Taft Sr. of Greenville, an attorney and former state senator who serves on the non-profit environmental law firm’s board of trustees, told the Road Worrier. “But not expensive coffee.”

Last week, Gov. Pat McCrory and his transportation secretary, Tony Tata, fired twin barrels of rhetorical birdshot at the Southern Environmental Law Center, whose lawsuit has stalled work on a 2011 contract to replace the 50-year-old Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks. Read more here.


Holiday gift: Need the perfect gift for your Moral Monday protester this holiday season? Progress NC, a frequent McCrory opponent, is selling bumper stickers that say “one-term Pat” and are punctuated with a cookie. “With his multiple missteps and misstatements, Governor McCrory is doing his best to make himself a one-term politician. We just want to help him out. It's our gift to him,” Gerrick Brenner writes.

LA Times Column One: A healthcare navigator in unfriendly waters. Dateline Murfreesboro. Read it here.

Gabby Giffords PAC donates to Hagan: It’s one of the first donations from her new political committee. Read more here.

Phil Berger Jr. opens campaign office: The office is located at 705-B W. Main St. in Jamestown. The event begins at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation: A day of service is schedule for Dec. 14 in Hahn’s name. Info here.

The underplayed headline from Monday: Lobbyists bypass state ban, donated to House speaker’s federal account. More here.

Apodaca: Nothing “too controversial” in short session. Read it here.

MEL WATT TO GET CONFIRMED THIS WEEK: Rep. Mel Watt is expected to be confirmed this week to lead the influential housing-finance regulator that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after the Senate changed its filibuster rules, making it harder to block White House nominees.

But Republicans aren’t likely to acquiesce lightly. They’ve blocked the North Carolina Democrat’s nomination for months and could still use a collection of procedural hurdles to stymie – or at least delay – the nomination to draw more public scrutiny to the pick. Read more here.

WATT’S EXIT LEAVES SCRAMBLED RACE: U.S. Rep. Mel Watt’s departure from Congress could trigger a complicated process to fill his seat for those who would replace him – a group that Monday grew by one. Read more here.

ECONOMIC OUTLOOK: Charlotte and the nation can expect slow economic growth next year as the nation’s businesses struggle with weak consumer spending and uncertainty about state and federal policy on taxes, health care and other issues.

That was the consensus Monday as a Federal Reserve official joined executives from some of Charlotte’s biggest corporations for the Charlotte Chamber’s annual Economic Outlook Conference. Read more here.

A headline sure to ellicit a reaction -- Gov. McCrory credits his administration for falling NC unemployment. From the Charlotte Business Journal. Read more here.

YANKEES: QUIT POLLUTING DOWN SOUTH: Democratic governors of Northern states urged federal officials on Monday to force air pollution reductions in North Carolina and eight other states, saying citizens up North are choking on incoming smog from the South and the Rust Belt.

The governors say that on hazy summer days as much as 95 percent of their air pollution comes from the other states, including North Carolina. They are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to clamp down on power plants, industrial facilities and automobile traffic here and in other states that send foul air across state lines. Read more here.

PERSONNEL FILE: Former Assistant Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland has joined Williams Mullen’s government affairs team in Raleigh as an economic development expert. Copeland helped recruit nearly $12 billion in investment during his tenure in the state commerce department, according to the firm.