Monday, September 15, 2014

New poll is latest showing Hagan with edge in Senate race

A new poll released today is the third in a week showing Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan with an advantage over Republican Thom Tillis in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race.

The latest came this morning from American Insights, a Republican-leaning firm in Raleigh. It found Hagan leading Tillis 43 percent to 34 percent among registered voters, with Libertarian Sean Haugh pulling 5 percent. The margin of error is 4.6 percentage points.

The 9-point lead is Hagan's largest in any recent poll.

"The race has unmistakably shifted towards Sen. Hagan in recent days," says polling director Pearce Godwin, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole. "This poll is a continuation and affirmation of the very recent trend in Sen. Hagan's direction. But there is still a lot of time left on the clock, and I would be surprised if this race does not revert to a jump ball between now and November."

Godwin says it appears to be a result at least in part of the barrage of Democratic ads against Tillis. Hi polls also suggest that Hagan was helped by her first debate with Tillis. Fifty-seven percent of likely female voters and 50 percent of like male voters said she performed better, according to the AI poll.

On Thursday a Rasmussen poll of likely voters showed Hagan leading Tillis 45 percent to 39 percent, while 6 percent favored somebody else and 9 percent were undecided.

A Survey USA/Civitas poll released the same day showed Hagan ahead 46 percent to 43 percent, with Haugh taking 5 percent.

Nate Silver's 538 blog took note of those two polls last week.

"The two polls together moved Hagan from a 45 percent underdog to a 61 percent percent favorite," it said. "With Hagan now leading, the FiveThirtyEight model does not project a single state in which President Obama won in either 2008 or 2012 to switch from Democratic to Republican control."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

New ads urge minorities to vote -- for Republicans

Minorities have been the Democratic Party's most reliable voters in North Carolina and around the country. Now supporters of Ben Carson are trying to change that.

The National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee is spending $300,000 on ads on radio stations geared to African Americans and Hispanics. It's spending another $230,000 on ads in Louisiana. The ads, which start in most markets today, target Democratic U.S. Sens. Kay Hagan and Mary Landrieu.

The ads seek to persuade minority voters that Republican positions on  energy, abortion and education are more in line with their values than those of Democrats.

"Minority voters for 60 years have only heard what the Republican Party stands for from Democrats, and they haven't been kind descriptions," says Vernon Robinson, a Winston-Salem Republican and  campaign director of the draft Carson committee. "Democrats have been running ads that say Republicans want to kill your mom and your dog."

Robinson says the ads are designed to chip away at support for Hagan, who's in a tight race with Republican Thom Tillis.

"Even minor shifts in minority participation are significant in a close race because Kay Hagan doesn’t have any minority voters to give up,” he says.

Carson has said a Republican takeover of the Senate -- the GOP needs a net gain of 6 seats -- would encourage him to seek the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

A retired neurosurgeon, Carson is also author of "One Nation," which currently sits atop the New York Times bestseller list.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Tillis isn't only Republican pushing contraception changes

Republican Thom Tillis caused a few eyebrows to rise Wednesday night when the subject turned to contraception.

Debate moderator Norah O'Donnell asked Tillis and Democrat Kay Hagan what they thought of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, which said a company that objects for religious reasons can deny employees contraceptive coverage.

"I believe contraception should be available probably more broadly than it is today," he said. "I actually agree with the American Medical Association, that we should make contraception more widely available. I think over-the-counter oral contraception should be available without prescription. If you do that, you will increase access and reduce barriers for having more options for women for contraception."
Turns out Tillis isn't the only GOP Senate candidate pushing the over-the-counter alternative.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Republican Senate candidates in Colorado, Virginia and Minnesota have also broached the idea of over-the-counter sales. The Times said the positions "bear the strong scent of election-year choreography."
Like candidates across the country, Tillis and Hagan are fighting over the women's vote.
Tillis said the Hobby Lobby decision was about religious freedom, not contraception.
Hagan disagrees with the ruling.
"Kay Hagan, I suspect, with the support that she's getting from the pharmaceutical industry, may have a variety of reasons to not put it on the counter," Tillis said, "but that's how you reduce costs and improve access."

Tillis suggested Hagan might oppose over-the-counter sales because of her support from the pharmaceutical industry. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, she's gotten over $425,000 in contributions from the industry.

Tillis' comments on contraception caught even supporters by surprise.

“We were a little surprised by the over-the-counter idea on contraception," said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition. "But look what's happened in the race. Kay Hagan has tried to paint Thom Tillis as being extreme. She's  gone out there and created this false narrative that he’s trying to limit women's access to contraception.....
"Making contraception available over the counter is is a bad idea. But what we know about Tillis is he has a record of being pro-life. He’ll be a supporter of pro-life values in the Senate."

Melissa Reed, a vice president of Planned Parenthood Health Systems Action Fund, said Tillis's proposal "masquerades as a solution, but it is not one."

"It's not surprising that Thom Tillis is trying to muddy the waters: 57 percent of women voters say they would be more likely to support a candidate who opposes allowing employers like Hobby Lobby to refuse to cover birth control."

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Charlotte teacher hits Thom Tillis in new Kay Hagan ad

Justin Ashley,  a Charlotte-Mecklenburg teacher who last year wrote an open letter to House Speaker Thom Tillis, is now featured in an ad for Tillis's U.S. Senate opponent, Democrat Kay Hagan.

A year ago, Ashley wrote to Tillis in the form of an op-ed in the Observer. In it, he explained how he had benefited from a North Carolina Teaching Fellows Scholarship, a program the legislature ended. He implored Tillis to keep it.

 "I feel like I’m doing what I was born to do. I come from a low-income family, so this scholarship gave me the opportunity to go to college to become a teacher," he says in the new Hagan ad. " “This is an opportunity that no teacher will ever have again in this state. That scholarship, it was eliminated
under the last budget because of the cuts from Mr. Tillis.”

Like the other ads in the series, he says Tillis "has taken the money we need for our schools and given it to billionaires."

That's an allusion to last year's tax cuts, which Republicans credit with boosting the economy while Democrats say disproportionately benefit the wealthy.

Ashley, who won N.C. teacher of the year honors last year, is one of four people -- including a Charlotte student -- featured in four separate Hagan ads about education.

Says Tillis spokesman Daniel Keylin: "Kay Hagan is hitting the panic button and running a negative campaign because she can’t defend her record of voting with Obama’s failed liberal agenda 95 percent of the time. ... Thom Tillis cut taxes and created opportunities for every North Carolinian taxpayer, which has helped middle-class families struggling under the Obama-Hagan economy get back on their feet. Under Thom’s leadership, education funding has increased every year, and teachers recently received historic 7 percent average pay raises."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sanders may offer choice for Democrats in 2016

Four years ago, Sen. Bernie Sanders made headlines with a passionate, 8-hour speech on the Senate floor lambasting the Bush-era tax cuts and bemoaning the growing gap between rich and poor.

Now Sanders, one of the Senate's two Independents, is taking that message on the road. On his itinerary:  The early presidential primary states of Iowa and South Carolina.

On Wednesday Sanders was in Charlotte to accept an award from the American Legion during its national convention. Sanders, who chairs the Senate's Veterans Affairs Committee, was honored with the Legion's Patriot Award.

"The cost of war doesn't end when the last shots are fired or the last missiles are launched," he told the Legion audience. "The cost of war continues until the vet receives all of the benefits that he or she has earned."

But when Sanders' met with me, it wasn't veterans that he wanted to talk about. It was the same subject he talked about four years ago and one he's cared about for a long time.

"The main issue that I have is that in America today the middle-class is disappearing while the gap between rich and poor is growing wider," he said. "...We need more people in politics working for ordinary people and not just the top 1 percent."

Sanders, who turns 73 in two weeks, says he hasn't made up his mond about 2016. And he's under no illusions about the prospect for a Democratic Socialist from Vermont getting the nomination, particularly in a field that could include a well-funded Hillary Clinton.

"I realize I'm not a household name," says Sanders, who refuses corporate donations though he has taken money from organized labor.

But he thinks there might be an opening for somebody with the right message. And he's going around the country seeing if audiences agree.

"I think the average American is a lot more frustrated with the establishment than a lot of people perceive," he says. "I think there's receptivity for voices that are going to speak for a working class that is being battered."

Monday, August 11, 2014

Will financial anxiety among older voters swing election?

A new poll by the AARP shows a lot of financial anxiety among North Carolina voters who are retired or planning to be.

And that anxiety could have implications for the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis. Exit polls in 2010, the last off-year election, showed more than a quarter of N.C. voters were seniors.

How bad is the anxiety? According to the survey of voters 50 and over:

-- 68 percent worry that their income falls behind the cost of living.

-- 67 percent of non-retirees  -- and 55 percent of retirees -- are 'more worried and concerned' than hopeful about meeting their financial goals.

-- 60 percent worry about paying too much in taxes.

-- 79 percent of those over 50 worry about saving enough for retirement.

Pollsters, a b-partisan team from North Star Opinion Research and Hart Research, found voters split evenly between Hagan and Tillis.

But they also found only 39 percent like the job being done by President Barack Obama. that's still nearly five times the 8 percent approval of Congress.

The poll reflects something else. It's why voters can expect to hear each candidate claim the other is a bigger threat to Social Security or Medicare.

Monday, July 14, 2014

No joke: Did Pat McCrory give Jon Stewart too much credit?

When Pat McCrory was the guest on Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins Monday morning, a caller asked him if there was any progress on the film credit issue.

Film credits are under fire by lawmakers who want to change the system, which now give production companies a 25 percent credit up to $20 million on qualifying expenses.

A Senate proposal would award grants totaling $20 million, a third of the total of $61 million that the incentive program paid out last year. The House budget contains a similar provision but leaves final amounts to be negotiated with the Senate.

McCrory wants a system of tax breaks more closely tied to film-related jobs and specific expenses. On Monday he said the Daily Show had received $400,000 in credits when it filmed in Charlotte during the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
But the state Film Office lists a different amount. Citing a report from the Department of Revenue, it shows that the Daily Show got a credit of $273,346.
The governor's office could not be reached.
Supporters say the industry provides 4,200 full-time and over 15,000 part-time jobs, with economic benefits in the millions.