GOP's Tillis rolls the dice in North Carolina Senate race
Incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan was considered one of the more vulnerable Democrats running for re-election. The Republicans chose the speaker of the statehouse Thom Tillis to run against her.
Tillis is a solid conservative running in a state carried easily by Mitt Romney in 2012. But Hagan maintains a lead of 3-5 points over Tillis and with one month to go, Republicans are looking for a way to breakthrough and peel off some of that support.
Tillis is gambling that attacking Hagan on foreign policy - specifically, ISIS - will put him over the top. With polls showing a wide lead for Republicans nationally on security issues, it sounds like a good bet.
But historically, foreign policy has not played a large role in a voter's decision. Can Tillis change that?
On Monday, Tillis’ camp released a new 30-second ad that hammers Hagan for missing several Senate Armed Service Committee hearings while the Islamic State threat mounted. It accuses Hagan of missing half the committee hearings this year, suggesting both she -- and President Obama -- were sitting back at a critical time.
“While ISIS grew, Obama kept waiting and Kay Hagan kept quiet,” the narrator says ominously. “The price for their failure is danger.”
Hagan’s camp, which had been relatively quiet on the topic, hit back Monday – saying that Tillis’ new ad “attempts to distract from his own record by distorting Kay’s instead.”
But Tillis' approach effectively seizes on a growing national anxiety about the rise in terror groups, which is becoming a factor in races that used to focus on health care and the economy.
During a recent stop in Charlotte, Tillis and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., hammered home the message that Hagan and Obama are to blame for the growing emergency linked to extremist groups like ISIS and said a new approach in Washington is needed.
"Anything short of a strategy that calls for and achieves the complete elimination of ISIS and any emerging threats is unacceptable," Tillis said in an interview with FoxNews.com.
He added, "I think this president needs to recognize that he, more than anyone else, needs to get that right and the senator that I'm running against, Kay Hagan, needs to start playing a more active role and demanding that we have a comprehensive strategy to what's occurring the Middle East."
Can "security moms" make a comeback in North Carolina? One factor in the 2004 victory of George Bush over John Kerry were suburban women concerned about terrorism. Bush won that group by 10 points and helped him win Ohio and Florida. Can Tillis tap the anxiety of voters who don't think the president - or Hagan - is serious enough about confronting the ISIS threat?
North Carolina is a state with a lot of military bases and retired military personnel, so this kind of attack may resonate with more voters than might be the case in another state. At the very least, the attack on Hagan's security record might generate some momentum for Tillis that would allow him to overtake Hagan by election day.